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2.1 Copyright and the role for Creative Commons licences

When a piece of creative work like an image, video, or textbook is produced, the creator of the work may have certain legal rights that restrict the ability of others to use or reuse that material without seeking permission from the author. This is known as copyright, and it applies automatically to all works unless the author chooses otherwise. The copyright notice © is a familiar symbol online. However, it is not necessarily helpful in determining whether or not you can use a resource, as sometimes copyrights expire, and in some cases it is no longer necessary to use it – in the USA, for example, the symbol is no longer required for works published after March 1989. Absence of notice does not necessarily mean the work is within the public domain – on the contrary, copyright must be assumed to be in place unless stated otherwise. Intellectual property is a broader term that incorporates copyright and other elements like patents. This is where Creative Commons licensing has filled a potentially very confusing gap.

Activity 2 Interpreting Creative Commons licences

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes
Image showing the six Creative Commons licences in icon form.
Figure 4 Creative Commons logos

This video ‘Creative Commons Kiwi’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] explains the four different symbols you may find on a Creative Commons licence, and the six possible combinations of these. This page also provides explanations of each of the licences if you want to use a text version. Make your own notes on the four symbols and six combinations, so that you will be able to refer to them in the future to identify what you are permitted to do with shared resources you find online.

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Creative Commons licences are an essential part of sharing or reusing teaching resources online. You need to be able to identify at a glance the reuse conditions attached to any learning object, and you should of course apply licences to any work you share more widely, too.

Now, thanks to Creative Commons licences, when you find materials on the web that you would like to use in your online teaching, you will be quickly able to tell whether you can reuse the item, whether you can modify it, whether you can use it to make money, and whether you need to apply an identical licence onto your own resulting work.

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