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Open Educational Resources (OER): Copyright


  Fundamentals of Fair Use   

"Copyright law is a carefully balanced system meant to encourage creativity as well as cultural and scientific progress. The law encourages authors by giving them limited control over certain uses of their works, and it encourages everyone (including authors) to use existing cultural and scientific material without permission, under certain circumstances, to engage in a wide variety of vital activities. Many parts of the law favor the freedom to use culture, but by far and away the most flexible, powerful, and universal user’s right is fair use. As you’ll see below: fair use is a right, fair use is vitally important, fair use is for everyone, and fair uses are everywhere"

-- "Fair Use Fundamentals" by Fair UseAssociation of Research Libraries is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The above infographic was created in conjunction with the annual Fair Use Week commissioned by the Association of Research Libraries. It essentially explains what fair use is, why it is important and who uses fair use? It also provides some examples of fair use.

View the full Fair Use Fundamentals infographic for more information as well as the for additional resources.

   Attribution & Fair Use: Copyright in Open Education   

This video contains information about Open Education, Creative Commons Licenses, attribution, and Fair Use.

Source:"Attribution & Fair Use: Copyright in Open Education #1" by Abbey Elder is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

   Introduction to Creative Commons   

"What is Creative Commons?" by Victor Grigas, #CreativeCommons is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

OER are resources that can reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.

Although they are open to free use by anyone, OERs are not without restrictions. They operate under Creative Commons intellectual property licenses that dictate how the material can be used, re-used, modified or shared in accordance with specific needs. Creative Commons licenses work with legal definitions of copyright to automatically provide usage rights pertaining to a particular work. When accessing an OER, you will find that it will always specify the open license which that particular OER is subject to. A user must adhere to these attribution specifications, which vary between different OERs.

As you embark on the OER journey, you will have the opportunity to fully explore Creative Commons licensing and learn how to apply appropriate licenses to the OER you and your students create and use.

Note: Not all OERs use the same licensing restriction. It is important to check the permissions of the OER before using them to ensure compliance with the terms. 

  Creative Commons "Wanna Work Together"  

"Creative Commons 'Wanna Work Together'" by Ryan Junell, is licensed under CC BY 2.5

    What are the different licenses and what do they mean?    

Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. CC's free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of 'all rights reserved' to 'some rights reserved’. (Creative Commons, 2014).

Instructors and creators of OER resources are encouraged to find and properly use Creative Commons resources in their teaching. We suggest that you put CC licenses on your work to allow others to use them and modify them to better suit their needs. 

For more information on CC legal codes, license deeds... visit the Creative Commons website.


"How To Attribute Creative Commons Photos" by Foter is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

  CC Licenses: A Comparison  

"How To Attribute Creative Commons Photos" by Foter is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

   What is Public Domain?   

The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.

There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:
  • The copyright has expired
  • The copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
  • The copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, or
  • Copyright law does not protect this type of work.
   Is a work in the Public Domain?   

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) provides certain guidelines based on local copyright law, such as term of copyright protection duration:

Literary, dramatic, musical and  artistic works 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died. If the work is published after the death of the author, it lasts for 70 years, from the end of the year in which the work was first published.
Published editions of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.
Sound recordings and films 70 years from the end of the year of release of the sound recording or film.
Broadcasts and cable programmes 50 years from the end of the year of making the broadcast or cable programme.

70 years from the end of the year of the performance.

For more on Public Domain, visit:

   Public Domain Licenses   


Creative Commons Zero, CC0
Also known as "No Rights Reserved," this public domain license implies that the creator(s) has waived their rights to the works and freely made their work to the world. Use this universal tool if you are a holder of copyright or database rights, and you wish to waive all your interests that may exist in your work worldwide. 


Public Domain
Also known as "No Known Copyright," this enables works that are no longer restricted by copyright to be marked as such in a standard and simple way, making them easily discoverable and available to others. Many cultural heritage institutions including museums, libraries and other curators are knowledgeable about the copyright status of paintings, books and manuscripts, photographs and other works in their collections, many of which are old and no longer under copyright.


According to Peter Suber, a pioneer of the Open Access movement:

  • "Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder."

In short, OA refers to freely available, digital online information. OA scholarly literature often carries less restrictive copyright and licensing barriers than traditionally published works, for both the users and the authors. 

While OA is a newer form of scholarly publishing, many OA journals comply with well-established peer-review processes and maintain high publishing standards. For details, see Peter Suber's overview of Open access at

In the following video, Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen from Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD, take us through the world of open access publishing and explain what it's all about.

"Open Access Explained!" by Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen is licensed under CC BY 3.0

  OER vs OA   

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

Open Access (OA), on the other hand, refers to scholarly publications released under an open license,(e.g., Creative Commons) including in open access journals. Open access publishing provides free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. Open access ensures that anyone can access and use these results—to turn ideas into industries and breakthroughs into better lives.

Both concepts of OER and OA may overlap, as research publications typically form an important part of the overall set of materials that students need to access to complete their studies successfully, particularly at graduate level.

More on...

  Fair Dealing (NUS)   

This NUS site on Copyright – What do you need to know? by Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP defines fair dealing as follows:

"Fair dealing allows for copyrighted material to be copied under specific circumstances prescribed under Singapore’s Copyright Act".

Visit the site to learn more about:

  • Factors that constitute fair dealing
  • What amounts to fair dealing?
    • Fair dealing for the purpose of research and study
    • Fair dealing for the purpose of criticism or review
  • Using copyrighted materials
    • What should you take note of?

  Suggested Readings 

Local Resources

Foreign Resources (Helpful for general knowledge)

  Suggested Readings  

Go to the Creative Commons License Chooser to add the CC license notice to your work or website.  This chooser helps you determine which Creative Commons License is right for you in a few easy steps. If you are new to Creative Commons, you may also want to read Licensing Considerations before you get started.

cc chooser

"Choose a license" by Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Creative Commons work with platforms like Wikipedia, Flickr, and Vimeo to provide their users with the option of licensing works with CC licenses. Through these platforms, over 1.4 billion works have been shared and counting!

  Suggested Readings  

  Differences between Open License, Public Domain and All Rights Reserved Copyright  
Difference between open license, public domain and all rights reserved copyright

 Boyoung Chae [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

  Suggested Readings  

  Suggested Readings