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Open Educational Resources (OER)

Copyright vs. Creative Commons


The U.S. Copyright Office defines copyright as

"a form of protection provided by U.S. law to authors of “original works of authorship” from the time the works are created in a fixed form."

Copyright confers certain privileges to an original work's creator including:

  • An exclusive right to reproduce, copy, or distribute a work for public consumption. 
  • An exclusive right to publicly perform a work in any medium, including audio, video, or before a live audience. 
  • An exclusive right to make a derivative from the work.
  • A limited monopoly over the work's use, with the ability to authorize others to exercise copyright privileges within certain statutory limitations.

Check out this U.S. Copyright Office Circular for more information. Or visit the U.S. Copyright Office homepage.

You can also check out this fun copyright animation by WIPO:

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non profit organization which specializes in licenses and other technical tools which allow an author/creator to give permission for their work to be:

  • Used freely with attribution (BY)
  • Used freely for non-commercial purposes (NC)
  • Used freely, but prohibit the creation of derivatives (ND)
  • Shared Alike, with any derivatives sharing the license given to the original work (SA)

Creative Commons asserts that it is NOT anti-copyright and states:

"CC licenses are copyright licenses, and depend on the existence of copyright to work. CC licenses are legal tools that creators and other rights holders can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Those who want to make their work available to the public for limited kinds of uses while preserving their copyright may want to consider using CC licenses. Others who want to reserve all of their rights under copyright law should not use CC licenses."

For a more detailed discusion of Creative Commons, see our Creative Commons Section below.

Check out the University of Pittsburgh Library System's Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights Toolkit for a more detailed look at copyright, creative commons, intellectual property rights, and what users and creators need to know.

Create Commons

Anatomy of a CC License | by Hunter OER Librarian Sheena Philogene

Our very own OER Librarian Sheena Philogene has created an openly licensed tutorial covering all the basics of Creative Commons Licensing.

Creative Commons Licensing Quick Guide:

CC Liscence

By Foter [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons