Building Capacity 

in K-12 OER

Quick Links for Creating & Adapting Openly Licensed Works

How Can Creative Commons Licenses Change Your Practice?

Creative Commons licenses are legal tools anyone can use to share or create educational resources. 

The free licenses provide a standardized way for creators/rights holders to give others advance permission to adapt, modify, and reshare their work.  

They do not replace Copyright. Creative Commons licenses work with Copyright to expand what is allowed. They also ensure creators are credited.

More About Creative Commons

Collaborate, Create, Adapt, Share

Seventh-grade Social Studies Teachers by Allison Shelley for EDUImages  is licensed  under CC-BY-NC 4.0

Where to Start?

An understanding of how to work with Creative Commons licenses and other aspects of open practice fuels collaboration and innovation

It supports a model of public education that is efficient and equitable through wider resource distribution. 

It also positions school divisions and educators as leaders through offering an ethical path for sharing innovative resources


"Copyright Symbols" by MikeBlogs is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Copyright basics are a must for anyone using online material or sharing online.

Copyright Basics

The following non-legal information primarily reflects the Canadian Copyright Act and will help you better understand some key concepts relevant to open licensing. The external sources listed below can be consulted for more information. Seek legal counsel where legal advice is needed.

What is the Purpose of Copyright?

Beginning with the first copyright law of 1710 (England’s Statute of Anne), a central purpose of copyright is to incentivize creators by offering exclusive rights. An additional purpose is to recognize and protect a creator’s relationship with their work by requiring attribution and preventing modification.

What Legal Rights Does a Copyright Holder Have?

Only the copyright holder has the right to license, reproduce, adapt, distribute, sell, publish, or perform an original work or a substantial part of it. If someone wants to use the work, they need to ask for permission or provide payment.

The creator is not always the copyright holder, as in the case of someone who creates a work as part of their employment duties.

I found it Free Online. Is It Protected by Copyright?

Yes. Unless content is marked as Public Domain, it is protected by Copyright even if it is under an open license. The Copyright Symbol is not necessary in Canada, though some countries do require it. Registration with the Copyright Office is also not necessary.

So Copyright Protection is Automatic?

Yes. Copyright applies to original literary and creative works the moment they are created. Photographs, artworks, student work, videos, sound recordings, blog posts, and Website content are just a few examples. There are some things that are not copyrightable. For example: the expression of specific facts or ideas are protected by copyright, but not the facts or ideas themselves.  To be protected, a work must be original and demonstrate a degree of creativity. It must also be in a fixed format (such as written or recorded).

Are There Limitations and Exceptions to Copyright?

Yes. Legislators recognize the need to balance public interests with the protections of copyright holders. For example, provisions for the visually impaired allow for copying and adaptation.  Most countries also have exceptions for the purposes of parody, criticism, and other uses that may vary by country. In Canada, the Fair Dealing exception to Copyright includes the use of short excerpts for the purpose of education.  

How Might the Fair Dealing Exception for Education Apply to My Own Work?

Fair Dealing is important in your classroom teaching because it allows you to make and distribute copies of short excerpts (such as a chapter or approximately 10% of a work) to your students. Learn more at Councils of Ministers of Education . 

Applying Fair Dealing to Open Educational Resources you create and share online is less widely understood, but the Code of Best Practices in Fair Dealing for Open Educational Resources (Johnson, R., Martin, H. Savage, S. Dickison, J. Ludbrook, A,, Lar-Son, K., 2024) is a key source for learning more.  

Does Copyright Expire?

Yes. In Canada and the U.S, Copyright lasts for the creator’s life plus 70* years (life plus 70). Certain publications may have shorter terms, such those published by the Crown (50 years after publication) or Corporations (under U.S. Law). Upon expiration of copyright, works enter the public domain. Some creators choose to dedicate their works to the public domain at the time of creation, and bypass copyright protection.

*Note: As of Dec. 30, 2022 the general term of Copyright Changed from 50 to 70 years after the death of the creator. Works that entered the public domain prior to Dec. 30 2022 are not affected. 

Are Public Domain Works Free from Copyright?  

Yes. Essentially, public domain works are outside copyright and can be used for essentially any purpose without permission. Attribution of the creator of a public domain work is not required in Canada or the U.S., however it is still good practice.

How is Copyright Related to Trademarks and Patents?

Copyright is just one example of intellectual property is protected. Trademarks allow corporations or organizations exclusive ways to promote and products or services. Patent law gives inventors a limited time to produce and market their invention, in exchange for a release of their ideas after the term ends.


Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). (2021). Copyright Open Educational Resource for University Instructors & Staff. Module 2: How Does Copyright Law Apply at my University? Retrieved May 21, 2024 from

Creative Commons. (2024). Creative Commons Certificate Course for Educators, Academic Librarians, and Open Culture. Unit 2: Copyright   


Government of Canada. (2023, October 1). A Guide to Canadian Copyright. Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2024 from    


 Heer Law (2023, October 19) Understanding Moral Rights Under Copyright Law. Retrieved Feb. 16, 2024 from

Johnson, R., Martin, H. Savage, S. Dickison, J. Ludbrook, A,, Lar-Son, K. (2024). Code of Best Practices in Fair Dealing for Open Educational Resources.   

   Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL).

"Copyright Basics" by Beth Cormier is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0


 BY-Attribution  NC-Non-Commercial  SA-Share Alike  ND-No Derivatives  


 Google Slides Version                                                                         PDF Version


Check your Understanding 


For original content to which you hold the copyright, it is easy to apply an open license.

CC License Chooser: Select a license & generate a license statement (Attribution Details) to include with your work (Mark your Work).

Is There Third Party Content in Your Work?

You do not have the right to reshare or license images, text, videos, audio etc. to which you do not hold the copyright.


Free online material is still protected by copyright. Generally, Copyright lasts for Creator's Life + 70 years until it enters the Public Domain. More About Public Domain.

Assume "All Rights Reserved" unless the terms of use or licensing/permission statements indicate otherwise. 

Third Party Content That CAN be Included:

Openly Licensed: How to Incorporate CC Licensed Content into Your Work

Ensure you read the Deed and Legal Code for any CC-licensed content you want to use. You must follow the terms for the license to be valid, including providing attribution. 

There are two main ways to incorporate CC-licensed content (images, text, videos etc.) into your larger work:

Each has specific licensing considerations to be aware of. 

Collections and Remixes Handout.pdf

The document embedded here includes considerations and examples for incorporating CC-licensed content. 

Remixing CC-Licensed work, from the Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, Academic Librarians and Open Culture is also highly recommended.


Find Out More

Choose Your Open License

CC License Chooser

The Creative Commons License Chooser might help you choose a license. 

A common license for OER is CC BY-NC (users may distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material for noncommercial purposes only, and only when attribution is given to the creator). 

More About CC Licenses

6 License Descriptions

Review the 6 license descriptions from Creative Commons. 

Copy the licence image or code and add it to each page of your content (or to PEFs. Include a link to the license. 

As an example, our site contains CC licensing at the bottom of each page.

Your Own Web Page is a form of Publishing

Share our Site with your Colleagues!

Learn more about how Creative Commons Licenses can change K-12 practice at