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University of Groningen Library
University of Groningen Library Open Education

Copyright, open licenses, and OER

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Most of the teaching resources used in higher education are copyright protected. This includes textbooks and software, but also research articles, images or videos used in presentations.

Copyright is an exclusive right of the creator to disclose the work to the public and to reproduce it. This right is granted by law to the creator (or copyright holder) and implies that there are certain rules and restrictions associated with the reuse of copyrighted materials in education.

Implications of copyright for education

Copyright restrictions can be far-reaching, limiting teachers on how to use the materials in ways appropriate for their courses. When you use copyrighted materials in ways that you aren’t allowed to, or you use materials you think are free but are actually copyright protected, the university may face substantial fees and fines. As such, it is important to know the rules associated with the reuse of copyright-protected materials in your teaching.

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Open licenses - Creative Commons

In contrast, open educational resources (OER) are a variety of teaching and assessment materials that are free from most copyright restrictions. This stems from the fact that OER are part of the public domain, or have been licensed under an open license. Creative Commons licenses are among the most widely used and known open licenses.

Open Educational Resources

Because of open Creative Commons licenses, you are allowed to retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute open educational resources. OER represent a break from traditional copyrighted materials, and due to the versatility of open licenses, they provide teachers with more freedom in the reuse and creation of innovative learner-centered materials.

OER Basics: 1. Copyright (all rights reserved), 2. Creative Commons (Some rights reserved), 3. Public domain (No rights reserved). OER covers 1 and 2
Image taken from the presentation OER Basics by Kelsey Smith - licensed under a CC-BY 4.0 International License .

OER are diverse and encompass many different types of materials used for educational purposes, such as open textbooks, lecture notes, slide decks, syllabi, images, videos, test banks, cases, courseware, 3D models, games and simulations, etc.

The experts of the open educational resources support team can help you with determining the copyright status of educational materials, as well as choosing and applying an open Creative Commons license to your own work.

Contact & support

  • Practical information: OER Library Guide.
  • Questions: contact us at oer-library
Last modified:22 January 2024 4.28 p.m.
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