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Open Educational Resources @MJC

This guide provides an overview of open educational resources (OER), Zero textbook cost courses, and gives you tools to help you find, create, and share these resources.


What is an open license and how does it work?

Educational resources are automatically copyrighted when you create them. Open licenses give permissions to the public to use a resource under the terms of the license. Adding a Creative Commons license to a work saves time and money for educators who want to share materials with teachers around the world.




Image Attribution: "Creative Commons Kiwi" by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Creative Commons - Open

A common misconception of OER is that they are simply "free" resources. While free is one component, how the resource is licensed is equally important. 

Creative Commons licensing is at the heart of the OER movement. CC allows creators to specify more flexible forms of copyright that allows "others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work." 

What this means for you is that:

  • You have a host of learning resources that you can find to freely and legally use for your curriculum.
  • You can license OER that you've created so that others can share, use, and build upon your work

creative commons licenses image

"Open Educational Resources at CCAC" by Community College of Allegheny County Libraries is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Copyright Basics - Not Open

Materials covered by Copyright law are not free for you to use, with a few exceptions. 

Things to Know:

1. Copyright is a legal right intended to "to promote the progress of science and useful arts."

2. Copyright applies automatically when a work is fixed in a tangible form. Registration is not required. This means you should always assume a work is protected by copyright even when it doesn't include a copyright symbol.

3. Copyright is a bundle of rights, which can be debundled, rather than a single right. This bundle includes the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, perform, and display the work.

4. Copyright protections generally last the life of the creator plus 70 years.

Fair use is a legal right that defines conditions under which you may legally use copyrighted work without first contacting the copyright owner. Learn more about Fair Use from the Fair Use Myths & Facts.

Fair Use Myths & Facts image

You can use the Fair Use Evaluator tool to help you understand how to determine the "fairness" of a use under the U.S. Copyright Code. It does not provide legal advice. Give it a try!

Fair use evaluator tool

Have Copyright or Fair Use questions not covered here? Check out the Library's Copyright research guide or contact a Librarian.