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OER (Open Education Resources): Copyright

What exactly IS copyright?

Copyright can be confusing. 

Creative Commons doesn't replace copyright, it is stands on copyright law and offers additional types of permissions.   In most cases, material retains its copyright for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation whichever is shorter.  Or if we know the identity of the author, the term is the author's life plus 70 years.  Creative Commons materials retain their license in perpetuity and cannot be revoked.

Public domain, of course, no longer has a copyright on it.

Fair Use Explained

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License

Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created this humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms.

Role of Copyright

Not too long ago, the only familiarity most of us had with copyright was the copyright notice inside the books we read. Most faculty members would have been aware of assigning a copyright to a publisher, but this was typically an inconsequential act. Today copyright has complicated ramifications throughout academic life.

You probably have an intuitive understanding of copyright's importance in the creation and distribution of creative works -- books, journal articles, electronic publications, music, movies, software, artworks, and sculpture. And you probably are aware that when you make and distribute copies of others' works to your students, or to research colleagues, it may or may not be a fair use. And most of us by now know that massive public distribution of copyrighted works without the owners' permission is illegal. But these uses barely dip a toe in the waters.

The role of copyright in the flow of research is undergoing dramatic and exciting change. The options for scholarly communication have never been broader or more effective. You'll find discussion of copyright woven all through important aspects of research and teaching, such as:

  • the use of others' works in the classroom, in fieldwork, and the laboratory
  • building on the works of others to create new works
  • open source software development
  • use and reuse of datasets
  • Creative Commons licensing
  • open access to research results and its acceleration of the pace of scientific discovery
  • the digitization of books in the public domain and digital access to works still in print as well as orphan works
  • the resulting opportunities to discover knowledge that's been hard to access in the past

Copyright both enables us and it throws stumbling blocks in our path. 

You may read the entire Copyright Law, if you are interested in more information.

Copyright Crash Course University of Texas Libraries CC BY NC

Copyright in depth

Copyright Warning

Picture of world divided by copyright

"The Great Divide of Copyright Status" Michaela Willi Hooper & Larent Antrosiglio, 2020 CC BY SA