Navigating Licenses

Creative Commons Licenses

To use and create open content, it is important to develop an understanding of Creative Commons (CC) and Ontario Commons (OCL) licenses to support searching, adapting, remixing, and sharing resources.

Creative Commons (CC) is an international non-profit organization that promotes the sharing and reuse of works by providing free legal tools. Its main product are the six open licenses.

A Creative Commons license consist of three elements:

  1. CC logo or initials
  2. icons representing a combination of conditions
  3. version (4.0 International is the most recent).

The six Creative Commons licenses are a combination of four conditions. These are represented by two letters – CC BY-SA – or written out in long form – Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.

  1. Attribution (BY)
  2. ShareAlike (SA)
  3. NonCommercial (NC)
  4. NoDerivatives (ND)

The Creative Commons Licenses are ordered from the most open, starting with the CC0 designation that does not require attribution and CC BY that only requires attribution, to the remaining five licenses that have more restrictions.

Infographic Long Description

Video: 6 Creative Commons Licenses

For a quick review of the six CC licenses, we invite you to watch this short video produced by the University of Guelph.

What are Creative Commons Licenses (1:14) [CC BY-NC-SA]

Video Transcript

The most open of these licenses is CC BY, requiring attribution only. The most restrictive (but still more open than copyright’s “all rights reserved” approach) is CC BY-NC-ND, which requires attribution but does not allow for commercial use and adaptations.

Resources with the ND condition are technically not OER. ND indicates that the user cannot make changes to the original version to incorporate into a new resource. This condition goes against two of the five Rs: revising and remixing. For disciplines with few OER, using non-modifiable resources is still a viable option. If no modifications are made, they can be assigned without having to request additional permission.

Creative Commons also makes available to creators the CC0 designation. It is not a license, but rather a tool that allows creators to waive their rights and transfer their recent works directly into the public domain. A work in the public domain has no copyright restrictions and can therefore be used freely and openly, even without attribution.

Generally, CC licenses are easy to find when you search for resources in an OER repository. However, sometimes the licenses are not as obvious on resources you find on the open web (blogs, websites, videos, etc).

Video: Finding and Interpreting Open Licenses

The following video will help you find and interpret open licenses associated with blogs, websites and videos.

Finding and Interpreting Open Licences (2:12) [CC BY]

Video Transcript

Ontario Commons Licenses

Some OER created with the financial support of eCampusOntario’s Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) have an Ontario Commons license: OCL 1.0 or OCL-ND 1.0. The former is comparable to CC BY-NC while the latter is like CC BY-NC-ND, but with additional restrictions.

The main difference with Creative Commons is that they apply only to educators and students in the Ontario post-secondary sector. Other users may need permission from the copyright holder to use resources with an Ontario Commons license. They are more restrictive than Creative Commons licenses.

Traditional Knowledge (TK) Labels

There is a long history of appropriation of Indigenous and traditional knowledge resulting from the application of copyright law. For example, the criteria of fixation in a tangible medium is especially problematic for cultures heavily based on oral traditions. This has led to non-Indigenous researchers owning the copyright on songs performed by Indigenous peoples simply by recording them.

Because open licenses work with these notions of copyright, they may not be the appropriate tool to manage, share and protect Indigenous knowledge.

Local Contexts offers a set of Traditional Knowledge (TK) Labels that “allow [Indigenous] communities to express local and specific conditions for sharing and engaging in future research and relationships in ways that are consistent with already existing community rules, governance and protocols for using, sharing and circulating knowledge and data.”

The TK Labels fall into three categories:

  1. Provenance Labels
  2. Protocol Labels
  3. Permission Labels

Find out more about each label on the Local Contexts website.

If you plan on incorporating Indigenous knowledge in an open educational resource, please review The 6Rs of Indigenous OER to find out how to respect community protocols and ethical considerations.

Activity: Understanding Open Licenses

Assess your understanding of open licenses by completing this H5P activity.



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