3.2 License your OER

OER acronym

Image: OER by @visualthinkery, licensed CC-BY-SA remix by catherinecronin

When it comes time to license your resource, you will probably spend most of your time deciding on the appropriate CC licence to assign; the actual steps involved in adding the licence to your resource are straightforward. As outlined in the National Forum Open Licensing Toolkit, once you have chosen a CC licence, you simply go to the Creative Commons website to create the licence, then download the CC licence image to use on your resource. This section deals with the important process of choosing a CC licence for your work.

Below is a summary of key considerations when choosing a CC licence in order to create your own OER. It is also advisable to consult colleagues in your institutional library and/or teaching and learning centre to discuss your choice of licence. And for all in higher education in Ireland, the National Forum short guide How to Choose an Open License summarises key considerations and the National Forum is available for consultation.

Choosing a CC licence

If you have not already reviewed the various CC licences in the earlier section, Creative Commons for open licensing, you may wish to do that now. There are six standard Creative Commons licences (seven if the CC0 Public Domain licence is included). The four CC licences most widely used in education are the following:

NC and ND licences:

As described in the National Forum How to Choose an Open Licence guide, most questions regarding the choice of licence surround the ‘NC’ and ‘ND’ licence elements.

  • NC: Three of the six CC licences include the ‘NC’ or Non-Commercial licence element (CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA, and CC BY-NC-ND). Apart from the original copyright holder, those who use OER with NC licences may not charge for access to the work. This exclusion of users who may charge for access means that many OER creators are inclined to choose NC licences. However, there are often unforeseen limitations of ‘NC’ licences that are worth considering. For example, it is not possible to include or remix NC-licensed content in OER that are shared under more permissive licenses, such as CC BY or CC BY-SA. These incompatibilities mean that NC-licensed resources cannot be included in Wikipedia or Wikimedia (both use the CC BY-SA licence) nor in many open educational resources and collections that are licensed with more permissive licences such as CC BY.
  • ND: Two of the six CC licences include the ‘ND’ or No Derivatives licence element (CC BY-ND and CC BY NC-ND). Resources with these licences can be shared, but only if they remain unchanged. According to the terms of an ND licence, the resource must be used in its entirety: it cannot be cropped; it cannot be translated into another language; it cannot be corrected or updated; it cannot be modified or remixed in any way. ND licences allow resources to be shared and distributed, either on their own or in larger collections, as long as they are reproduced in an unaltered fashion. If you wish to remix content that has an ND licence, you must ask permission from the licence holder.

Overall, it can be helpful to ask yourself: how might someone wish to use this resource? In other words, think of yourself as a potential user of your OER:

  • Will you permit modification, translation and/or remix of your OER? (if so, avoid the use of ND licences)
  • Will you permit others to charge for access if they reuse your OER, e.g. including your resource in a textbook that is not open? (if so avoid the use of NC licences)
  • Will you limit use of your OER only to those who will use the same Share Alike licence? (if so, use an SA licence)
  • Would you like your OER to be available for remix and inclusion as part of others’ open resources that use the least restrictive licences (e.g. CC BY)? (if so, avoid the use of ND, NC and SA licences)

Finally, it is also important to think about the nature of the OER you plan to share. Two key aspects are the level and granularity of the resource.

Level: Is the resource widely applicable? If so, it would be helpful to use the most permissive licence possible. On the other hand, if there are particular sensitivities regarding the content, you may decide to assign a more restrictive licence.

Granularity: Smaller “chunks” of content are best shared with the most open licence possible. How granular is your content (e.g. infographic, assignment, lesson, textbook)? Large OER such as open courses can be thought of as OER collections: if it is not possible for the entire collection to have a CC BY licence, for example, individual elements within the course can be assigned more open licences so that they can be more freely reused by others.

Considering licence compatibilities

The following charts are reproduced from the National Forum How to Choose an Open Licence guide. They are a useful reference for creators of OER who (a) want to consider the possible limitations of their chosen licences for future users of their OER, and (b) want to include OER created by others as part of their own resources (e.g. images, charts, infographics, assignments, etc.). Can I include this in my OER? (Figure 1) will help those who wish to include others’ OER in their own work in unadapted form. Can I remix this in my OER? (Figure 2) will help those who wish to remix others’ OER as part of their own work.

Can I include this in my OER?

Figure 1 illustrates licence compatibility issues to take into consideration if you wish to include others’ OER in unadapted form within your own work, i.e. assuming you will not modify, translate or remix the OER you are including. Please note that the CC license you apply to a work that combines other CC-licensed works in unadapted form (i.e. collection content) only applies to your creative work of curating or organizing the other works. The new license you create does not limit or change the permissions of the original licensed works you share within it.

  • Check the column for the licence you are considering, to see which types of OER you can include
  • Check the row for the licence you are considering, to see how others will be able to include your work in their own OER collections

Figure 1. ‘Can I include this in my OER?‘ is an adaptation of the Collections Licensing Table by Creative Commons, used under CC BY

Can I remix this in my OER?

Figure 2 illustrates licence compatibility issues to take into consideration if you wish to remix others’ OER within your own work, i.e. you plan to modify, translate or remix others’ work with the OER you are creating.

  • Check the column for the licence you are considering to see which types of OER you can remix
  • Check the row for the licence you are considering to see how others will be able to remix your OER in their own OER

Figure 2. ‘Can I remix this in my OER?‘ is an adaptation of the Adapter’s Licensing Chart and CC Licence Compatibility Chart by Creative Commons, used under CC BY

Please note that the Figures above do not consider ‘ND’ as a licensing option, as these guides were produced to support creators of National Forum-funded resources. All National Forum-funded resources are encouraged to be shared using licences that permit adaptation for different contexts. To check licence compatibilities for ‘ND’ licences, please refer to the source charts referenced in the figure headings.

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3.1 Remix or create
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3.3 Share your OER

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