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Adams State University
Nielsen Library

Open Educational Resources

Information for Faculty & Staff about OER

Licenses: A Quick Breakdown


Creative material is protected by US (and international) copyright law. Traditional Copyright equals "All Rights Reserved" by the author/creator or rights-holder. The rights-holder needs to be contacted for legal use, or an argument for Fair Use/Educational Use/TEACH Act must be made. Contact either Amanda Langdon at the library or Tyler Egan at AITC with any questions.

* Please note that NOT all "academic use" is Fair Use, and automatically legal under the law.

That being said, Fair Use and OER can be used together.  American University's Washington College of Law produced the open book Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OER, available at [better link is here]; it's licensed under CC BY 4.0. More broadly, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) published the book Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic & Research Libraries.

For more information on Fair Use, see our Fair Use Research Guide.

Public Domain

Material that has fallen or aged out of copyright is considered to be Public Domain. Anyone can now use public domain material in whatever ways they wish. Some repositories or searchable resources include Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and HathiTrust. More information on these can be found on the "Locating Open Resources" tab of this guide, under Public Domain Resources.

Creative Commons

Creative commons is open licensing that means "some rights reserved" -- depending on the type of licensing, sharing and reuse may be permitted without seeking the rights-holder's permission. See information below on types of CC Licenses.


Attribution: Essential to all License types

Regardless of what kind of material you're using, giving proper credit to the creator -- citing your sources -- is essential. Below is a code of best practices using the acronym TASL and developed by Lumen Learning.

  • Title of the work, often (but not always) in quotation marks
  • Author -- when possible, link to their profile page
  • Source -- when possible, link to the original work
  • License -- when possible, link to the Creative Commons License page for that license type

The PDF below is a condensed version of the Lumen Learning webpage "Attributing CC Licensed Content."


Differences between Citations and Attributions:

Citation Attribution
Academic & legal purposes (plagiarism and copyright infringement). Legal purposes (e.g. rules of Creative Commons Licenses)
The rights of the copy (meaning copyright) are NOT shared with the general public by the copyright holder. Copyright IS shared with the general public by the copyright holder by marking the work with an open-copyright license.
Protects and author who wants to refer to an restricted work by another author. Author of an open work has given advanced permission to use their work.
Use to quote or paraphrase a limited portion of a restricted work. Used to quote (or paraphrase) all or a portion of an openly licensed work.
Can paraphrase, but cannot change work without permission. Author has given advanced permission to change work.
Many citation styles are available: APA, Chicago, MLA. Attribution statement styles are still emerging, but there are some defined best practices.
A reference list of cited resources is typically placed at the end of the book. Attribution statements are found on the same page as a resource.

Table from "Self-Publishing Guide: a reference for writing and self-publishing an open textbook" by Lauri M. Aesoph, published for BC Campus under a CC-BY license

Creative Commons Licenses - What they Are & What They Allow


Cited using TASL: "The 5R Permissions of OER." Lumen Learning, from About OER [now a dud link], licensing type unknown / to-be-determined after outreach to Lumen.


David Wiley put together a great graphic showing how the licenses allow the 5 Rs:

Cited using TASL: "Wiley's 5Rs and Creative Commons Licensing." Chart created by David Wiley, from Google Presentation slide 5Rs to CC Licensing Chart, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.


graphic explaining 6 different creative commons licenses

("Licenses" by Prince George's Community College, Creative Commons Licenses [LibGuide], licensing type unknown)



Requirements for creative commons licenses

("Creative Commons Licenses" by Prince George's Community College, Creative Commons Licenses [LibGuide], licensing type unknown)


Below are some videos that can further explain how Creative Commons Licenses work.

Licensing My Own or Derivative Works

How Do I License My Creation?

If you're looking for information on how to license your own creation, here is a great resource -- the Creative Commons Licensing page. This simple tool will help you decide what kind of license type (including restrictions or a lack thereof) that you want to apply. Two questions are used to determine your license type: 1) Do you want to allow adaptations of your work to be shared? -- This is essentially asking if you will allow the "Remix" portion of the 5 Rs, allowing derivative works. Please be aware that while the intellectual property is yours, and any response to this question is legally permissible, answering "No" to this takes your work from truly "Open" to only "partially open." It raises the question, does an ND license really fit into OER? Some repositories are refusing to accept ND material. 2) Will you allow commercial uses of your work? Paradoxically, prohibiting others from making a profit off of your freely-contributed material limits the openness of the content. 

How Can I Remix Different CCLs?

This Creative Commons License Compatibility Chart will help you determine if and how you can remix works of different license types into something new. Please note that just because you can't make something new with "X" types, that doesn't prevent you from using the material independently!

Other Licensing Resources

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.