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