A big barrier to adoption of OER is incomplete knowledge or misunderstanding of its usage and legality. The most common myths about OER suggest that they are illegal to use and infringe on copyright law.
This section dispels those myths and provides information on the different types of options for legal use, modification and distribution of work—with emphasis on copyright and Creative Commons.
Review of these options may help you protect yourself by avoiding potential copyright infringement, as well as make informed choices about the type of work best suited to your purposes.
"Copyright is a form or protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works."—U.S. Copyright Office
Visit the U.S. Copyright Office FAQs for more information, including answers to questions like:
Copyright infringement can occur through purposeful OR accidental use of work without legal permission granted by the original author. Doing so—even if the infringement occurs through insufficient understanding of copyright—makes you and Compton College alike subject to a number of penalties, such as:
When it comes to copyright, ignorance doesn't excuse infringement—educate yourself to protect yourself!
"Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances."—U.S. Copyright Office
While copying and distribution of works is generally prohibited under U.S. Copyright Law, the Fair Use Doctrine (Section 107 of the Copyright Act) legally permits the free, unlicensed use of copyrighted work when specific criteria are met—such as when used for teaching or scholarship. The framework for determining situations and uses that qualify as fair use is further outlined in Section 107.
There is no standard formula or preset percentage of a work that may be used without permission; determination of fair use is performed by courts on a case-by-case basis. Accordingly, it is up to each individual to educate themselves and make the most informed determinations possible.
Use the resources below to help you determine if your use of copyrighted materials qualifies as fair use:
"A work of authorship is in the 'public domain' if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner."—U.S. Copyright Office
In short, works within the public domain are not protected under copyright and may be used freely.
Materials are considered under the public domain if they meet any of the following criteria:
To determine whether a work is in the public domain, it's easiest to just search specifically for works in the public domain or using public domain repositories, such as The Public Domain Review.
You can also select Find OER from the navigation menu to search or browse OER collections, some of which include works in the public domain.
"Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify copyright terms to best suit your needs."
Creative Commons ultimately expands the reach and access of shared work, allowing creators a way to manage copyright permissions of their work without having to manually grant permission to each individual request. Consequently, use of a Creative Commons license is typically exercised with intention to allow reuse and distribution of content.
The primary purpose of OER is for educational materials to be reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed. However, like all types of intellectual property, OER are subject to copyright law, which can substantially restrict the usage of these works and prevent effective dissemination. Fortunately, Creative Commons licenses allow content creators to legally retain copyright while also broadly sharing permission for use with others—all without the need to individually grant permission to each interested user. This allows creators to reach a wider audience and provides users with a much greater breadth of resources.