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Open Education Resources

All about Open Education Resources including, open textbooks, open data, and how to adopt or adapt for your own courses.

Learn more about copyright in OC's Copyright Guide

Copyright is a form of legal protection that affords the copyright owner the exclusive rights to, among other things:

  1. Reproduce (copy)
  2. Distribute
  3. Publicly perform
  4. Publicly display
  5. Create “derivative works” (e.g., translations, revisions, other modifications)

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. Under the Copyright Act of Canada, the author of the work is generally the owner of the copyright.

A copyright license is a grant of permission to use certain copyright rights. Copyright licenses often have specific limitations that are outlined. For example, they may:

  • Be limited in time
  • Contain geographical restrictions
  • Only allow for educational uses
  • Only grant permission to use some of the copyright rights (for example, a license may grant permission to download and distribute a work, but not the right to create derivative works)

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 license is copyright infringement.

Copyright Exceptions

1. Public Domain - 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 70 years after the death of the creator.

2. Fair Dealing - In 2012, the Copyright Act of Canada was amended to add education as a purpose of fair dealing. In most circumstances, fair dealing allows you to scan and share up to 10% of a book or a book chapter, an article from a journal, or other small portions of a work. Contact a librarian to find out more. 

3. Linking to Copyright Materials - 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.

Adapted from College Libraries Ontario's OER Toolkit

Open licenses 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:

  • Allowing others to distribute the work freely, which in turn promotes wider circulation than if an individual or group retained the exclusive right to distribute;
  • Reducing or eliminating the need for others to ask for permission to use or share the work, which can be time consuming, especially if the work has many authors;
  • Encouraging others to continuously improve and add value to the work; and
  • Encouraging others to create new works based on the original work - e.g. translations, adaptations, or works with a different scope or focus.

OER are typically licensed under an open licensing system, with the most popular being the Creative Commons (CC) licensing system.

Attribution: Text is a derivative of Guide to Open Licensing, by Open Knowledge International, licensed under CC BY 4.0

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 license to assign to her finished chapter before sharing it.

Attribution: Ontario eLearning Portal

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