In recent years, there has been a move towards "open", defined as (from Open Definition):
“Open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose (subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness).”
Open is generally a good thing. It:
- gives back control to educators and researchers
- helps makes teaching and learning resources more widely accessible
- can prevent unnecessary duplication of work
- encourages collaboration
- raises your profile & makes your work more visible
- eases pressure on budgets
At first glance copyright would appear to prevent free access, use, modification and sharing, but this is where licencing comes in. With regards to copyright, a licence is a document that states what can and cannot be done with a piece of copyrighted work. The licence grants permissions and states restrictions and is a way of fine-tuning what rights are maintained by the creator and what rights are waived. Thus, you may use a licence to state, for example, that your work can be shared and reused, but not for commercial purposes and at the same time, you must be credited at the creator of the work. The licences that do that are known as open licences. Open licences let you share your work, but let you also assert and retain some copyright rights.
The Open Scholarly Resources section discusses other aspects of "Open" such as Open Access and Open Educational Resources. These concepts are underpinned by open licencing
Important: you do not give up copyright by using an open licence
The best known and most commonly used open licences are those of Creative Commons (CC). Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation and international network helping to promote and expand sharing of works. If copyright asserts "all rights reserved" then the use of a Creative Commons licence is used to assert "some right reserved", The idea being to allow sharing of some description while still affording copyright protection to the creators. There are different CC licences which waive or reserve different rights. Common to all CC licences is attribution; no matter what you are allowed to do with a creator's work, you must give them proper credit. All Creative Commons licenses require users of a work to properly credit the creator(s) of that work.
Users of CC-licenced content must:
- credit the creators
- keep existing copyright notices intact on all copies of the work,
- link to the license from copies of the work.
- not use technological measures to restrict access to the work by others.
Creative Commons Licence Features and Types
There are a number of attributes that you can combine together to create a licence. These are:
By: This is common to all CC licences and indicates that the user of the work must give appropriate credit to the creator.
Share Alike (SA): Allows users to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, but if you modify the content, you must licence your modified content under the same terms (users being free to modify your work).
No Derivatives (ND): Allows users to copy and distribute the work in unadapted form only - no modifications
No Commercial Use (NC): Allows users to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, but if you modify the content, you must licence your modified content under the same terms (users being free to modify your work
These features can be combined to yield six different licences
CC-BY. The least restrictive licence. Users are free to copy 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
CC-BY-NC. This licence allows users to copy, distribute and modify the material in any medium or format for non-commercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.
CC-BY-ND. This licence allows users to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in an unmodified form only and only so long as attribution is given to the creator
CC-BY-SA. This license allows users to copy, distribute and modify the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use. If you modify the material, you must license it under identical terms.
CC-BY-NC-ND. This licence allows users to copy, distribute in any medium or format in unmodified form only, for non-commercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.
CC-BY-NC-SA. This licence allows uses to copy, distribute and modify the work in any medium or format, for non-commercial purposes only and only so long as proper attribution is given to the creator. If you modify the work, you must license it under identical terms.
In addition, there is a separate licence CC0 or CC Zero, which can be used if creators want to give up copyright and release their works into the public domain (think of it as like a CC-BY licence but without the BY)
Choosing a Licence
These CC, and other licences provide a range of options for creators to share their work but still maintain some control over how their work is used, but you still need to give some thought to how you want your work to be shared. Think about:
- Do you require attribution?
- Are you happy for other people use your work for commercial purposes?
- Are you happy for other people modify your work?
- If you're happy for other people to modify your work, can they share that work under their own terms?
Also, it should go without saying, but before you can apply an open licence to a work, you must ensure that you are the copyright holder. You cannot apply an open licence to work that is not your own!