Understanding open licences

Open educational resources are digital resources used in the context of teaching and learning that have been released under an open licence permitting their use and re-purposing by others.

Open licences provide permission to freely use copyright works under the terms and conditions set by the licence.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons licences are the most commonly used licences for sharing open educational resources. Creative Commons is a US based non-profit organization and international network whose aim is to overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges.

Creative Commons licences

Creative Commons provides a range of open licences that provide a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions for creative and academic works; while ensuring proper attribution; and allowing others to copy, distribute, and make use of those works.

All Creative Commons licences are:

  • Accompanied by a human-readable summary and a licence deed.
  • Applicable worldwide.
  • Backwards compatible – current versions of the licences are compatible with earlier versions.
  • Last for the duration of the copyright of the work.
  • Non-exclusive – copyright holders have the right to share their work under multiple licences.
  • Irrevocable – once a work has been published under a CC license, licensees may continue using it according to the license terms for the duration of applicable copyright and similar rights. Copyright holders may stop distributing their work under the CC license at any time, but anyone who has access to a copy of the material may continue to use and redistribute it under the CC license terms.

Creative Commons licences range from permissive (CC BY) to restrictive (CC BY-NC-ND).

Types of CC license, Foter.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://foter.com/blog/how-to-attribute-creative-commons-photos/

The terms of the licence will dictate how you can use the resources.  For an overview of the different Creative Commons licences see Choosing a Creative Commons Licence (link) and for information about licence restrictions please visit How to use OERs (link)

Public domain and CC0

Public domain resources are no longer under protection, e.g. copyright has expired, or have been actively dedicated to the public for free use, e.g. using the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) designation. You can find out more about Creative Commons Zero here: CC0 No Rights Reserved.

Digital Skills Support

The OER Service runs a range of digital skills sessions focused on understanding copyright and open licensing and finding and using open licensed content.  These include:

  • Copyright, Licensing, and Open Materials for Hybrid Teaching
  • Creative Commons Quick Start: A short introduction to using CC licences
  • OER and Open Education

For further information and to book a place, please visit the OER Service Events page.

Further Information

Creative Commons About the Licences

Creative Commons FAQ

Creative Commons Licence Compatibility