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Copyright, Creative Commons, and OER: Open Publishing

Open Publishing

To publish a learning object or other creative work under Creative Commons (CC):

  1. Choose a license. Think about what you want others to be able to freely do with your work. CC BY is often recommended as the most open and compatible, but you might also choose to apply other licenses such as non-commercial or share-alike.
  2. Also consider this Compatibility Chart and how future users might be restricted in remixing your work.
  3. Wherever you choose to publish it, place a license on your work. Use a format such as: 
    Copyright, Creative Commons and OER guide by Maggie Swanger is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Adding a License to Your Canvas Course

From your course "Settings" menu... Open Settings
On the "Course Details" tab... Open Course Details
Then the "License" section. Select License

See this Canvas help page for more details.

OER and Open Access

OA and OER are slightly different in terms of licensing options, but they can work together to foster more open practices across teaching and scholarly research.

OER and Open Access licenses

OER vs. Open Access Licenses is adapted from Open Licensing and Open Education Licensing Policy by Cable Green,, licensed under CC BY 4.0OER vs. Open Access Licenses is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Maggie Swanger.

The Problem With Scholarly Publishing

Although the work of academic research and scholarly publishing is largely conducted by public dollars, the results are not shared freely and openly with the public. Colleges and universities can essentially end up paying in multiple ways for access to the work that they and the government funded.


Money icon Grants, often taxpayer-funded, support research.


Science icon Researchers, often at public universities, conduct research.


Edit icon Results are submitted to publishers and peer-reviewed by other researchers for free.


Copyright symbol Authors transfer copyright to the publisher for free. (In fact, they often pay a fee for publication.)


Money symbol College libraries pay for access to scholarly articles.


An Open Access Model

Instead of the for-profit model that limits access to research and discoveries, publishing articles freely in open access journals ensures that everyone can access research and that authors can set their own terms. Founded in 2000, PLOS (Public Library of Science) is an example of a nonprofit open access scholarly publisher.

  • Authors retain their copyright.
  • Others around the world, regardless of their university affiliation or personal budget can access articles.
  • Standard Creative Commons licenses allow for text and data mining to improve discoverability.
  • College library budgets can be freed for other purposes.

Learning More

There are lots of places to learn more about copyright, OER, and Creative Commons licensing.