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Open Educational Resources (OER)

Copyright and Open Educational Resources

Open licenses such as Creative Commons licenses don't operate outside of existing copyright law, they are based on copyright law and enabled by it. Open licensing doesn't involve an author giving up ownership over content they have created; in fact, they maintain ownership in placing the license on it, but do give up many exclusive rights. The open license provides permissions to others to use the content, permissions that are over and above the usual exceptions that are allowed by copyright law - of which there are important examples.

One important exception in Irish copyright law is that of fair dealing (in the United States, a similar idea is called 'fair use'). Open license permissions go beyond such exceptions and allow others to reuse content that would lie beyond the limits of fair dealing to be reused without seeking the permission of the author. Open licenses enable the 5Rs of open educational resources.

You will get the most out of open licensing and OER by having some familiarity with the prevailing copyright laws in your area. In Ireland, the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency (ICLA) maintains an excellent website that explains copyright and answers frequently asked questions about copyright in plain language. A good perusal of the ICLA site is recommended before embarking on or as part of an OER creation project. Another good resource is the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland, which has published this Copyright and Related Rights guide.

An additional context to be familiar with when it comes to creating OER while being a member of an institution like NUI Galway is relevant policy. OER creation should be consistent with NUI Galway policies, including its policy on University Intellectual Property.


Applying an open license to make a resource an open resource means an author gives up a good deal of exclusive rights to the work they have created. But doing so does not mean giving up the right to be identified as the author of the work. Attribution is therefore an important component of the practice of creating, using, and reusing OER. In the case of all the CC BY Creative Commons licenses, the author of the work must be identified: "credit must be given to the creator".

A good way to handle attribution is to follow the TASL mnemonic. Include the following information in your attribution of a work that you are reusing, revising, or remixing:

Title -- What is the name of the material?

Author -- Who owns the material?

Source -- Where can I find it?

  • Provide a link where available

License -- How can I use the material?

  • Provide a link to the specific open license being used, eg. CC BY

Copyright Do's and Don'ts



  • Use substantial amounts of content copied from a work that does not have a license or is in the public domain without seeking permission from the author or creator of the work
  • Otherwise violate the copyright law of your locality