What is the difference between free and open?
For the digital resource to be considered OER, the resource needs to be both – open and free. However, being free does not always mean that the resource is open. As stated by Wiley (2016) “If all was meant by open was free, we wouldn’t need a new word. We’d just call it free”. Free resources indicate that a particular resource can be accessed at no other cost, however, it does not mean, that this resource can be shared, reused, remixed, or modified. However, when the resource is open, the user must be able to re-use and share it, if they follow the licensing term assigned by the author of that resource. Based on the license that is established, users may also revise and remix resources with self-generated content or other open resources (Wiley, 2014). Within the permissions and deadlines set out in the license for adapting and modifying the resources, teachers can create new content knowledge. These open resources can be used by the lecturer both in his/her courses and shared with others with the appropriate permissions and licenses.
Copyright, Open license and Creative Commons
When talking about OERs and open access, it is important to be aware that there are different levels of openness that teachers need to be aware of:
- Public domain – Creative Commons is not applied, or the author waives copyright.
- Possibility to edit the content without giving up the author’s rights.
- Content sharing only.
- Open access only.
- “All rights reserved” (copyright).
To understand how each of the above-mentioned levels of openness relates to different licenses and why it is important to understand this and apply it in your teaching and learning material, we will now explain the key principles of different licenses.
Three concepts are often found in the literature when talking about digital educational resources: copyright, open license, and Creative Commons. These three terms explain the authors’ attribution and define how the work can be used. However, these three concepts explain different licensing aspects.
Key features of the copyright license:
- The symbol of the copyright –
- The general rule defining copyright – “All rights reserved” (or at least, most rights reserved). This means that you need permission/license to do anything with the scope of the copyright owner’s rights (economic or moral rights) unless the law provides otherwise (e.g., where there is an exception permitting that use).
- use requires prior permission from the copyright owner unless within an exception to owner’s rights (e.g., fair dealing) under the Copyright Act.
The main differences between the public domain, Open license and All rights reserved:
|All Rights Reserved
|Copyright ownership is waived.
|Copyright ownership is retained.
|Copyright ownership is retained.
|The author gives away rights to the public.
|The author grants broad rights to the public in advance.
|The author does not grant rights to the public.
|It is not mine. I waive my rights as an author. You don’t even need to quote me, although I would appreciate it.
|It is mine, but I let you take my material. You don’t need to ask my permission to use it, as it has already been granted, just make sure you give my name properly.
|It is mine. I CANNOT allow you to take this material and use it. Be sure to ask my permission to use it.
Watch the video below introducing to Author Rights and How to keep control of your copyright.
Creative Commons license
“Creative Commons is an international non-profit organization that empowers people to grow and sustain the thriving commons of shared knowledge and culture we need to address the world’s most pressing challenges and create a brighter future for all. Together with our global community and multiple partners, we build capacity and infrastructure, we develop practical solutions, and we advocate for better sharing: sharing that is contextual, inclusive, just, equitable, reciprocal, and sustainable.” (Definition from creativecommons.org).
Creative Commons (further CC) licenses give everyone the public permission to use their creative work under copyright law. From the user’s perspective, this license answers the question, “What can I do with this work?”. This license consists of 4 license elements, which can be combined to form6 different licenses. This allows each author to choose the licence that suits them best. The 4 main rights encompass:
|An author’s work may be copied, redistributed and derivative works may be created, but the original author must be acknowledged.
|The work may be copied, and distributed and derivative works may be created, but may not be used for commercial purposes.
|The work may be copied and distributed, but no derivative works may be created, unless authors’ permission for modifications is received.
|The work may be copied, distributed, or derivative works may be created, but the derivative work must be distributed under the same licence terms.
Based on the CC license elements presented above, 6 different license types can be modified:
|Attribution CC BY
|This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.
|This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.
|This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.
|Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
|This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.
|Attribution-NoDerivatives CC BY-ND
|This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.
|Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivativesCC BY-NC-ND
|This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.
As it can be noted, the above presented CC licenses refer to the different levels of openness, meaning that some licenses are mostly open (but still not considered as public domain) while others are less open. Fig. XX demonstrates the spectrum of CC licenses that help to rethink the level of openness to which you may want your work to be attributed.
Key features of Creative Commons licenses:
- licenses are granted the right to copy, distribute, display, digitally perform and make digital copies of the work in another format
- have a worldwide application that lasts for the entire duration of the copyright and is irrevocable
- licenses cannot use technological protection measures to restrict access to the work
- every copy of the work should maintain a link to the license
- attribution of the creator or author must be given
Each creative license is expressed in three ways:
- The commons deed – a simple, plain – English summary of the license, together with the relevant icon/s that indicate the scope of permitted use
- Legal code – the dense legal “fine print” license document
- Digital code – metadata that highlights what license is attached to the content
|Read. To learn more about free cultural works please read “Clarification of free cultural works, Open Educational Resources, and Open Access” by West (2021).