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Copyright for Authors

Open licenses

Licenses are a way of giving permission to someone to use your work in a certain way. (When you hear "license," think "permission.") You've probably seen Creative Commons licenses in educational settings. Similar to open source software licenses, they allow the creator (or rights holder, if copyright has been transferred) of an educational or scholarly work to retain their copyright while granting users permission to use their work in certain ways. All the creator needs to do is share the license on the work itself.

Depending on the license chosen by the creator, users may be allowed to:

  • Retain - make, own, and control a copy of the resource (e.g., download and keep your own copy)
  • Revise - edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource (e.g., translate into another language)
  • Remix - combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (e.g., make a mashup)
  • Reuse - use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (e.g., on a website, in a presentation, in a class)
  • Redistribute - share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (e.g., post a copy online or give one to a friend)

Open licenses are less restrictive than "all rights reserved" copyright, where a creator does not specify any type of license, but more restrictive than works in the public domain, where copyright has expired, or where a rights holder has waived all rights to their work.


Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources was written by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

Types of Creative Commons Licenses

Learn more about each of the Creative Commons Licenses.

Creative Commons

CC licenses

Creative Commons (CC) helps you share your knowledge & creativity with the world by marking your work as "open access."

Since you own the copyright to your work (unless you have transferred copyright to another party), CC copyright licenses are a simple, standardized way to give others permission to share and use your work without having to ask permission -- on conditions of your choice.  

Simply choose which license you prefer and mark your work which license you've chosen.

Creative Commons' license choosing tool can help you select the right license:

Choose a License