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Open Educational Resources (OER)

"Can I Use This?" by Darrell Lagace


Copyright grants the copyright owner a set of exclusive rights to their work and prevents the work from being adapted, copied, distributed, publicly performed, or otherwise used without permission. Copyright is automatic at the time a work is created, and lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years. It protects the expression of ideas or facts, but it does not protect the facts or ideas themselves. Creative Commons licenses allow authors to maintain copyright while also granting specific permissions to their work.

Fair Use

Exceptions and limitations to copyright allow copyrighted works to be used for specific purposes that do not require permission. These typically include the right to quote works, uses for educational activities, accommodations for disabilities, and access and preservation through libraries, museums, and archives.

Fair use is determined by the four factor test:

  1. the purpose and character of your use
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion taken
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market

Public Domain

Works in the Public Domain are free from copyright. Works enter the public domain when the copyright expires, the work is dedicated to the public domain, the work is not entitled to copyright protection, or the creator did not adhere to formalities to acquire or maintain copyright.

The following sites may be helpful when searching for works in the public domain:

Except where otherwise noted, content of this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons license CC BY 4.0 license and is adapted from the Creative Commons Certification Course by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0.