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Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.

—Peter Drucker

In this tutorial we provide recommendations to educators on the choice of license for OER from the perspective of the OER Foundation. The OER Foundation is a "pro-freedom" educational charity based on the democratic principles of freedom of speech and freedom of choice.

The purpose of this tutorial is to provide information to assist educators and educational institutions to make informed decisions when choosing open content licenses. For the purposes of this tutorial, our discussions are limited to the Creative Commons set of licenses.

The structure of this tutorial is informed by two generic schools of thought around license choices, that is:

  1. Free cultural works approved licenses
  2. Other licenses (which do not meet the requirements of free cultural works approved content).

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We recommend that readers have a reasonable knowledge and understanding of the:


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How do I know which license to use?

Ahrash Bissel, open education advocate advises: "When sharing, simple is best. Use CC-BY."
That depends:
  • In what ways do you envision your work being used?
  • What do you want users to be able to do with your work?
  • Do you want your work to be as widely accessible as possible, regardless of whether it is used for commercial or noncommercial purposes?
  • Do you want others to be able to improve upon your work?
  • And if so, do you want to require them to make their own improvements available under the same terms as you’ve made your work available?

These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself.

Is there a recommended license for OER?

Yes. You should use the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) license, whenever possible. Only the CC BY license endows OER with all of the fundamental attributes (e.g., freedom to share and combine resources while giving the author credit) which are important for resources in a global learning commons.

While any CC license is better than none, the more restrictive licenses usually affect the usability of your OER in ways that you may not want or expect. We would urge you to review the goals and constraints of your organisation regarding the OER you produce, and to only apply more restrictive licensing when fully justified.

Reflection adapted from Open Educational Resources and Creative Commons LicensingPDF down.png, prepared by the former CCLearn team, including Ahrash Bissell, Lila Bailey, Jane Park.

Your personal license recommendation

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Do you agree with Ahrash Bissell's recommendation?

Ahrash Bissell says "When sharing, simple is best. Use CC-BY."

Do you agree with Ahrash's recommendation. Post your contribution on microblogs and include the hash tag "#OCL4Ed" in your post, for example, I agree (disagree). CC-BY is (isn't) best because .... #OCL4Ed:

  • Let us know if you agree with the CC-BY recommendation and why.
  • If not, let us know why CC-BY isn't the best choice.
  • What license would you recommend for OER and why?