This page contains enriched content visible when JavaScript is enabled or by clicking here. Skip to main content

Open Educational Resources: Understanding OER Licenses

Licenses and Copyright

One of the advantage of OERs is the ability to mix content from different sources or mix textbook content with your own materials to create something that exactly fits the need of your course. In order to do this, you need to understand how materials are licensed and made available for re-use.

Licenses allow the copyright holder to retain the copyright of a work while also releasing some of their rights to others. Creative Commons offers six different licenses that allow the copyright holder to retain their copyright while allowing rights to copy, distribute, make derivative works, and publicly display or perform their work. These rights may be assigned separately or in combination. 

When choosing an OER, check how it is licensed using the tools below to understand how you are able to adapt and re-use the text to match the needs of your students.

Creative Commons Licenses in a Nutshell

 "CC Chart", is a derivative of slide 88 of “The OER 101 Workshop at USM II” by Zaid Alsagoff used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5. ”CC Chart” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 by Amanda Pape and modified by Jane Scott and licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5.

Creative Commons Licenses Defined

  • Attribution CC BY - The copyright holder retains the copyright for their work; however, they give others the right to share, use, and build upon their work and ask that others attribute the original work to them.

  • Attribution ShareAlike CC BY-SA  - With retention of their copyright, the author gives others the right to share, use, and build upon their work and ask that others attribute the original work to them and share any subsequent work or changes made to the work under the same license.

  • Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND - Retaining their copyright, the author asks that the work be attributed to them and gives others the right to share and use their work but does not allow any changes to the work (no remixing, and no building upon the original work).

  • Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC - Retaining copyright, the author gives others the right to share, use, remix, and build upon their work as long as they do so for non commercial purposes and attribute the original work to them.

  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA - Retaining copyright and requesting attribution, the author gives others the right to share, use, remix, and build upon their work as long as they do so for non commercial purposes, and share new derivatives of the work under the same license.

  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND - This is the least flexible license; the author requests attribution and allows others to share and use their work without any changes for non commercial purposes.

Short Video on Open Licensing

Assigning Attribution

All of the Creative Commons Licenses require attribution.  

Elements for any attribution include:

  • title of work,
  • author of work,
  • license applied to original work,
  • modifications to the work
  • modifier of the work
  •  license applied to the modified work
See Best Practices for Attribution, including multiple examples, from:

Sample Attribution

library@up.edu | 503.943.7111 or 800.841.8261 | 5000 N. Willamette Blvd., Portland, OR 97203-5798 | © 2017 University of Portland, All Rights Reserved