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It is important to understand how OER are licensed so that you use them appropriately and so you can create your own Creative Commons (CC) licenses. This page will go over the CC licenses and how to create your own license.

OER Licensing Issues

Creative Commons is the most widely adopted type of open licensing. While the owner retains full copyright, Creative Commons licenses allow the legal use and adaptation of materials while providing attribution to the original owner. It does not replace copyright but works alongside copyright.

Creative commons licensing image

Creative Commons licenses are a mix of 4 license types:

CC BY - You must provide attribution to the creator of the work.

CC BY NC (No Charge) - You must provide attribution and cannot charge money for the work. This is one of the most popular so publishers can't take it and charge for it.

CC BY SA (Share Alike) - You must provide attribution and have to use the same license when you share it. 

CC BY ND (No Derivatives) - You must provide attribution and cannot make any changes to the work. This is not the best choice for educational purposes and does not count as open. 

Below is a great introduction to open licensing and why it is important although we have fair use. 



"How to License Posterby Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0



  • Remember the license may not be revoked.

Type of material

  • Make sure the material is appropriate for CC licensing. CC licenses are appropriate for all types of content you want to share publicly, except software and hardware.
  • Specify precisely what it is you are licensing. Any given work has multiple elements; e.g., text, images, music. Make sure to clearly mark or indicate in a notice which of those are covered by the license.

Nature and adequacy of rights

  • Make sure the material is subject to copyright or similar rights. CC licenses are operative only where copyright, sui generis database rights, or other rights closely related to copyright come into play. They should not be applied to material in the public domain.
  • Clear rights needed to use the material. If the material includes rights held by others, make sure to get permission to sublicense those rights under the CC license.
  • If you created the material in the scope of your employment or as a work-for-hire, you may not be the holder of the rights and may need to get permission before applying a CC license.

Indicate rights not covered by the license.

  • Prominently mark or indicate in a notice any rights held by third parties, such as publicity or trademark rights. This includes any content you used under exceptions or limitations to copyright, and any third party content used under another license (even if it is the same CC license as you applied).

Type of license

  • Think about how you want the material to be used.
  • Consider what you hope to achieve by sharing your work when determining which of the six CC licenses to apply. For example, if you want it to appear in a Wikipedia article, it must be licensed using BY-SA or a compatible license.
  • Consider any obligations that may affect what type of license you apply.
  • Think about any obligations you have, such as licensing requirements from a funding source, employment agreement, or limitations on your ability to use a CC license imposed by a collecting society, that dictate which (if any) of the six CC licenses you can apply.



"Considerations for licensors and licensees" by CC Wiki is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Below are some tools to help you create your own Creative Commons (CC) licenses.

Works in the public domain are not subject to copyright and can be freely used and edited.

There are four ways a work enters into the public domain:

  1. The copyright expired
  2. The owner didn't maintain copyright and failed to renew
  3. The owner places it into the public domain
  4. The work isn't entitled to copyright protection

You can learn more about the Public Domain and find content in the Public Domain at the links below.