Creative Commons (CC) licenses are at the very core of Open Educational Resources (OER). Key to the benefits of OER is that you can use them in any way set forth by the 5Rs (retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute). Normal copyright protections would require you to actively seek permissions from the copyright owner to do these things. By applying a CC license, creators allow to be used by others according to the 5Rs, and users know that as long as they follow the conditions of the license they have perpetual permission to use the work. OER with Creative Commons licenses require attribution to the original creator, unlike public domain works.
Creative Commons licenses allow content creators, researchers, instructors, and students to share and discover robust open educational materials across nearly every disciplinary field of study or area of interest. From textbooks to homework assignments, images and videos, and everything in-between, Creative Commons opens the floodgates of academic inquiry open to a wider audience of both mature and budding scholars.
Creative Commons licenses are coded by the degrees of flexibility they offer to users. All CC licenses are built out of the following four elements:
To fully be compliant with the 5Rs, an OER's license cannot include the ND No Derivatives element because that would prevent revising and remixing.
This chart shows the permissions and restrictions associated with each Creative Commons license as well as public domain works.
The Creative Commons non-profit organization has developed an online tool for those wishing to publish their own open educational resources. This tool will help you to decide which CC license is best for your purposes and will provide an HTML code to assign to your digital materials as well as the appropriate image to copy into printed documents.
Creative Commons is in the process of developing a new tool for determining licenses, so this information is apt to change in the near future. [Information added 5.17.2021.]
For a thorough explanation about the current process of choosing a Creative Commons license, please see the video below.
This guide was created by Dr. Meredith Heath Boulden on behalf of the University of Memphis Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise noted. This guide is currently maintained by Carl Hess.