Understand copyright to create OER
know about copyright

When you’re creating, adapting, and sharing open educational resources–including textbooks, modules, handbooks, or other materials–it’s helpful to understand some copyright basics.

Copyright Tips for Creating Open Content

The major question to ask at the beginning of a project: Who are you willing to share it with?

Scenario 1: If the answer is “anyone looking for an open textbook” or “colleagues in my field, not necessarily at UF,” then you should try to ensure everything you include can be legally shared on the open web.

  • Look for “openly licensed” or public domain materials. Depending on your discipline, many websites make it possible to search specifically for textbooks, scholarly literature, images, music, and videos where copyright holders have assigned Creative Commons licenses.
  • Remember that most works created by the federal and Florida governments are also in the public domain. As a starting point, typing “site:.gov” and then your search term into Google will give you a sense of what’s out there on government websites (though keep in mind these sites might also be using copyrighted stock images).
  • Learn more about Creative Commons and different licenses in context of OER: https://creativecommons.org/about/program-areas/education-oer/
  • Keep in mind that if you link to subscription materials licensed by the UF Libraries, your colleagues/students outside UF will not be able to access those unless their institutions also subscribe.

Scenario 2: If the answer is “only UF students,” you have more flexibility in terms of content, but your audience will be narrower.

  • You can use anything licensed or owned by the Libraries, meaning anything you can find in the Libraries catalog. Some of this material is open access; most is subscription only. In general, the Libraries’ contracts only allow faculty to link to materials; do not download from subscription databases and upload those files to platforms such as Pressbooks or Canvas.
  • You also have more leeway to rely on fair use, since the limited number of students accessing content lessens the risk that you will undermine the commercial market for copyrighted materials. If you’re working with Course Reserves to make copies of journal articles, book chapters, or other materials available, you can link to that system. Course Reserves staff will also review your requests for potential copyright issues.
  • Of course, you should also take advantage of openly licensed and public domain materials whenever possible. This will make it easier to convert your book to a truly open textbook if you choose to do so in the future.

Copyright Tips for Sharing OER

If you created or adapted content that want to share outside UF, you will need to decide how you wish others to use it and ensure you aren’t infringing on the rights of others by distributing broadly.

Step 1: Review your work for potential copyright issues

  • Inventory and review any materials you have uploaded that you did not create yourself. (Linking to external resources, including embedding links to videos, is generally okay.) These might include readings, images, sound, video, etc. Double-check that one of the following applies:
    • The material was made available under a Creative Commons or other open license that allows you to reuse in your own openly available work.
    • You are exercising fair use by appropriately transforming, analyzing, or contextualizing small amounts of copyrighted material (e.g. analyzing an image or reusing a factual diagram from a scholarly article).
    • You have permission from the copyright holder to repurpose and share the material.
  • Set your browser to “incognito” or “private” mode (this is important so websites don’t automatically give you access to subscription materials as a UF affiliate) and click on the links in your materials. Does each link lead you to a fully open access resource?

Step 2: Decide which license to apply to your own work

  • Congratulations, your work is ready to share! One goal of sharing is that others can reuse your content in their own classrooms.
  • You should choose a Creative Commons license that allows for this. The choice is up to you, but we recommend Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0, which allows others to copy, distribute, adapt, translate, etc. as long as they give you credit and do not use the material commercially. The noncommercial restriction also means for-profit entities may not adapt and resell your work.