Copyright matters, because as educators, we often use content created by others, and create content for others to use.
Copyright is a form of legal protection that affords the copyright owner the exclusive rights to, among other things:
Without permission from the copyright owner, or an applicable exception such as fair dealing under the Copyright Act, it is a violation of copyright law to exercise any of the copyright owner's exclusive rights.
For additional information on copyright literacy, see the Learning Portal's Copyright Literacy Module.
A copyright licence is a grant of permission to use certain copyright rights. Copyright licences often have specific limitations that are outlined. For example, they may:
When evaluating the permitted scope of uses, read all copyright language closely. Using a work in a manner that exceeds the scope of permissions granted in a licence is copyright infringement.
Under the Copyright Act of Canada, the author of the work is generally the owner of the copyright. However, if a work is created within the scope of the author’s employment, the employer holds the copyright unless there is an agreement to the contrary.
Check your college's copyright policies and intellectual property policies. Collective agreements or employment contracts can also affect copyright ownership. Contact your college library if you need more information, since they may be able to direct you to relevant policies and contacts.
Works in the Public Domain are released from copyright protection, due to expiration of their copyright or by designation by the copyright holder. This content may be used in any way by anyone. In Canada, with some exceptions, copyright expires 50 years after the death of the creator.
In 2012, the Copyright Act of Canada was amended to add education as a purpose of fair dealing.
It is not a violation of copyright to link to copyrighted material, nor is it necessary to obtain permission from the copyright holder to, for example, link to a YouTube video in a presentation.
Follow this simplified checklist to determine the use permissions of the resources that you find online:
Use the guidelines below to identify whether you need to seek permission from the copyright holder when repurposing existing materials as OER. You may also contact your college library for help on determining whether your intended use falls within a copyright exception or licence, or whether permission is required.
Copyleft is a play on the word copyright. Copyleft is a strategy for encouraging the public's right to freely copy, share, modify and improve creative works and modified versions of those works. Copyleft describes any method that utilizes the copyright system to achieve these goals.
Copyleft as a concept is usually implemented in the details of a specific copyright licence, such as the Creative Commons Attribution Licence - opens in a new window, or the GNU General Public Licence that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution with no or limited restrictions. Copyright holders of creative works can choose these licences for their own works to build communities that collaboratively share and improve their creative works.
Open licences support creators that want to share their works freely, and allow other users more flexibility to reuse and share the creators’ works. Specific benefits include:
OER are typically licensed under an open licensing system, with the most popular being the Creative Commons (CC) licensing system.
Creative Commons licences allow creators to retain certain rights while waiving some rights. There are six types of Creative Commons licence. All require attribution to the original creator(s). The creator can add on other restrictions such as non-commercial uses only and no derivative works. The six licences include:
Watch the video or read the Creative Commons Kiwi video transcript. This short video explains the six Creative Commons Licences, by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand.
As a creator of OER, you can choose the conditions of reuse and modification by selecting one or more of the restrictions listed below:
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request.
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for non-commercial purposes only.
You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the licence that governs your work
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.
In this animated video, Michelle develops a chapter on metabolism for an open textbook. She uses her teaching notes for the text of the chapter, and finds openly licensed images and exercises to accompany the text. She also determines which Creative Commons licence to assign to her finished chapter before sharing it.
Watch the video or read the Creating OER and Combining Licenses video transcript.