Working in the Open

For Unit 5, we looked more into the roles of open access and open education resources, including why they are and will continue to be important.

Defining Open Access

When I think about open access, I think about sharing research and information without restriction, as well as eliminating barriers to access.

Two definitions about Open Access mentioned in this unit follow here:

1. “Open access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Open access stands in contrast to the existing “closed” system for communicating scientific and scholarly research. This current approach is slow, expensive, and ill-suited for research collaboration and discovery. And even though scholarly research is largely produced as a result of public funding, the results are often hidden behind technical, legal, and financial barriers or paywalls. Open access publishing is an alternative model — one that takes full advantage of digital technologies, the web, and open licensing to provide free access to scholarship” (“Open Access to Scholarship” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

2. “As defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative, Open Access (OA) to research means free “availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of [research] articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution and the only role for copyright in this domain should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited” (“Open Access to Scholarship” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

I want to also take a moment to share a couple of critical elements as it relates to Open Access. These include the author’s keeping their copyright, no embargo periods, providing access to the data associated with the research article, and providing a CC license (“Open Access to Scholarship” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

 I would also recommend checking out unit 5.1 for the discussion on Open Access myths.

Defining Open Education Resources

Unit 5.2 defined OERs here:

“Open education is an idea, a set of content, practices, policy, and community which, properly leveraged, can help everyone in the world access free, effective, open learning materials for the marginal cost of zero. We live in an age of information abundance where everyone, for the first time in human history, can potentially attain all the education they desire. The key to this transformational shift in learning is Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are education materials that are shared at no cost with legal permissions for the public to freely use, share, and build upon the content”  (“OER, Open Textbooks, and Open Courses” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

What makes OER a possibility is that the majority begin in digital format and shared for free, the internet allows for efficient sharing of information, and CC licenses allow creators to keep their copyright and share their work broadly (“OER, Open Textbooks, and Open Courses” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

When I think about OER, I think about free resources with no restrictions to reuse, recreate and share widely. I also, due to my work, tend to think of them as removing financial barriers for students. Further, for this initial conversation about OER, we need to address the 5Rs: retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.

 “The 5Rs include:

  1. Retain – permission to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – permission to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – permission to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – permission to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – permission to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of to a friend)”

(“OER, Open Textbooks, and Open Courses” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

The 5Rs reflect that fact that OERs can be almost anything, from a screencast to a textbook.

Finally, I want to share how to make sure a resource is an OER as it relates to Creative Commons:

“The easiest way to confirm that an education resource is an *open* educational resource that provides you with the 5R permissions is to determine that the resource is either in the public domain or has been licensed under a Creative Commons license that permits the creation of derivative works – CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, or CC BY-NC-SA.” (“OER, Open Textbooks, and Open Courses” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Relationship between OA and OER

Open Access and OER go hand-in-hand. As we have discussed earlier in this post, Open Access is the practice of making research and associated data/information freely available to read and share widely. Part of this practice to educate creators about retaining their copyright and to push back against traditional methods of scholarly publication that add to barriers to information access and have exorbitant costs. OER are the teaching resources that are made available due to the open publishing practices made possible by Open Access.

Unit 5.4 further states:

“Openness in education means more than just access or legal certainty over what you are able to use, modify, and share with your students. Open education means designing content and practices that ensure everyone can actively participate and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. As educators and students revise others’ OER and create and share new OER, accessibility should always be on your design checklist” (“Creating and Sharing OER” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

This part of the relationship between OER and OA represents the shift in knowledge production from sheer ownership and profit, to one of public good, and to move ideas and education forward without limitations. OER and OA make information freely available and more accessible to learners.

Open Access and Open Educational Resources are Important for Faculty and Students

I want to preface this last section with a quote from unit 5.5:

“When education institutions support their educators, staff, and learners in moving from closed to open content and practices, open education thrives. Educators want to design the best courses, adjust their practices and pedagogy to empower learners to co-create knowledge, and push the limits of knowledge by openly sharing their ideas and resources with a global audience. But educators can’t do it alone. They need political, financial, time, staff, and policy support to shift to, and fully realize, the benefits of open education” (“Opening up Your Institution” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

This is important to state because educators can’t do it alone, they need support from their institutions and each other to move this important work forward. As librarians well know, scholarly publishing continues to get more and more expensive. This means it is more difficult for library budgets to purchase the information students and faculty need in their own work and learning that libraries provide access to. Textbooks are just one example where OA and OER can cut costs and contribute to new, freely available resources for better student learning, and cutting educational costs for students.

Despite what we hear about OER quality, that argument has become outdated:

  • “In this increasingly digital and internet connected world, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is growing outdated. New models are developing across all aspects of society that dramatically reduce or eliminate costs to users, and this kind of innovation has spread to education resources.
  • OER publishers have worked to ensure the quality of their resources. Many open textbooks are created within rigorous editorial and peer-review guidelines, and many OER repositories allow faculty to review (and see others’ reviews of) the material. There is also a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that OER can be both free of cost and high quality—and more importantly, support positive student learning outcomes.”

 (“Finding, Evaluating, and Adapting Resources” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

For faculty, OER are now more robust tools to support student learning and engagement. The flexibility afforded by OA and OER allow for the 5Rs, which allow for curation of OA resources. For students, OER increase the accessibility of education by providing zero cost course materials that build better engagement with the course. Also, unlike textbooks and inclusive access models, students can easily refer back to course content after they have taken the class. From personal experience, I know how students struggle to have course content purchased in time to start a class. OER can eliminate this barrier as well.

In terms of OA, students and faculty can have quicker access to OA publications because they don’t have any embargo restrictions like traditional publishers. In addition, because the information is OA, students and faculty also have access to associated data that authors would have used in their writing. Openness also promotes sharing, which means information is more accessible to a wider audience. More people will see the work, which is not only good for faculty writing about their research or creating OERs, but it makes publishing more accessible for students who are looking to build their resume and have confidence as information creators.

Finally, because of OA, OERs can be more easily adapted to become accessible for student who may not be able to see or hear. Remixing of information, like the 5Rs, allow this to happen with less restrictions.

 (“Creative Commons for Academic Librarians” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).


To conclude this unit discussion, I want to share this excerpt:

“At its core, OER is about making sure everyone has access. Not just rich people, not just people who can see or hear, not just people who can read English – everyone” (“Creating and Sharing OER” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

This is what we are working toward together for OA and OER. Providing quality information easily, more broadly and accessible than with traditional publishing models. Education around these concepts, especially about CC licenses and retaining individual copyright, will continue to be important. As educators, it will also continue to be important to support each other in this work so it can have an even stronger impact, removing barriers to learning.


Welcome to Unit 4! I was excited to learn more about remixing and adaptations as I am very interested in that work. I hope you enjoy the discussion below about CC licensing, collections and remix/adaptation.

A description of collections

In terms of CC licensed works and collections, we will define a collection as bringing together independent works from other creators, which may have separate/different licenses, and curating them into a new collection. This is not an adaptation of the works, but simply bringing those separate works together and ensuring their distinction from one another.

(“Remixing CC-licensed Work” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Licensing considerations for collections

When you put together a collection, both attribution to the original creator and information describing the CC license of not only your creation, but also the various licenses that may be included within the collection:

“…a collection involves the assembly of separate and independent creative works into a collective whole. A collection is not an adaptation. One community member likened the difference between adaptations and collections to smoothies and TV dinners, respectively” (“Remixing CC-licensed Work” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

This means that while you are including works within your own collection that have various licenses, you still have the right to license your own curated creation by a separate license. When you apply your own license or copyright, it only applies to the platform or creation that you curated that brought the separate works together. For example, if I create a website for a class that lists various resources by other authors, I only have certain copyrights over the website collection in the way I arrange the resources, not the individual works authored by another. I need to provide attribution to the other works, but they are not mine to license over.

A description of remixes / adapted works / derivative works

So, what if you are wanting to reuse, combine or change a CC licensed resource into something new? The original work may already fall under fair use or fair dealing, which means you don’t need to go any further in terms of the copyright. If it doesn’t fall into the exceptions or limitations to copyright, “you need to rely on the CC license for permission to adapt the work. The threshold question then becomes, is what you are doing creating an adaptation?” (“Remixing CC-licensed Work” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Further, Module 4.4 defines adaption or derivative works as the following:

“Adaptation (or derivative work, as it is called in some parts of the world) is a term of art in copyright law. [1] It means creating something new from a copyrighted work that is sufficiently original to itself be protected by copyright. This is not always easy to determine, though some bright lines do exist. Read this explanation on the CC site about what constitutes an adaptation. Some examples of adaptations include a film based on a novel or a translation of a book from one language into another” (“Remixing CC-licensed Work” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

We can use adaptation/deritvative and remix synomously here, but remix usually means adapting multiple works, although it can be one.

For me, the first example that came to mind (and which was mentioned in this unit), was the creation of an open textbook with a CC license. You are remixing information from different sources to create something new that aligns with your class. This may mean that you are bringing together different chapters of chemistry textbooks that each have a CC license and adapting them for your purposes, which may mean editing some of the content. It is important to note hear that a collection is not an adaptation. I also feel that it is important to discuss here the smoothie example from Module 4.4.

Module 4.4 discussed the analogy of a smoothie to explain how adaptations and remixes bring information together from multiple source to creation something. We see this visualized in the smoothie image.

This image is really helpful for me to understand remix better, including how we attribute and provide licensing to the sources. Finally, “In a “smoothie” or adaptation / remix, you often cannot tell where one open work ends and another one begins. While this flexibility is useful for the new creator, it is still important to provide attribution to the individual parts that went into making the adaptation” (“Remixing CC-licensed Work” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

I don’t typically visualize remixes or information in this way where licenses are involved, so it is interesting to think about how information and licenses can come together in this way.

Licensing considerations for remixes / adapted works / derivative works

There are a few rules and scenarios that are important when thinking through how to create remixes of CC licensed work(s). Also, you need to consider what options you have for licensing the copyright you have in your adaptation; this is called the Adapter’s License. Remember that your rights in your adaptation only apply to your own contributions. The original license continues to govern reuse of the elements from the original work that you used when creating your adaptation” (“Remixing CC-licensed Work” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0). See here for a helpful FAQ and chart that discusses these concepts more.

The following are rules and scenarios to guide licensing considerations in this context:

“General rules:

 If the underlying work is licensed under a NoDerivatives license, you can make and use changes privately but you cannot share your adaptation with others, as discussed above.

 If the underlying work is licensed under a ShareAlike license, then ShareAlike applies to your adaptation and you must license it under the same or a compatible license. More on this below.

 You need to consider license compatibility. License compatibility is the term used to address the issue of which types of licensed works can be adapted into a new work.

 In all cases, you have to attribute the original work when you create an adaptation.


When creating an adaptation of a CC licensed work, the simplest scenario is when you take a single CC licensed work and adapt it.

The more complicated scenario is when you are adapting two or more CC licensed works into a new work” (“Remixing CC-licensed Work” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

License compatibility is important to touch on more here, so let’s go back to the concept of the Adapter’s License, which are the options you have for copyright licensing in your new work:

“If the underlying work is licensed with BY or BY-NC, we recommend your adapter’s license include at least the same license elements as the license applied to the original. For example, if one adapts a BY-NC work, she will apply BY-NC to her adaptation. If one adapts a BY work, she could apply either BY or BY-NC to her adaptation.

If the underlying work is licensed with BY-SA or BY-NC-SA, your adapter’s license must be the same license applied to the original or a license that is designated as compatible with the original license. We’ll discuss license compatibility in more detail below.

Remember, if the underlying work is licensed with BY-ND or BY-NC-ND, you cannot distribute adaptations so you don’t need to be concerned about what adapter’s license to apply” (“Remixing CC-licensed Work” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Finally, there is a really helpful chart below that assists with finding compatible CC licenses when remixing original works.

CC License Compatibility Chart / CC BY 4.0

(“Remixing CC-licensed Work” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Always remember to provide attribution to the original creator of the work(s).

Example Collection

In providing an example of a collection, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how working remotely has gone over the last year or so during the pandemic. I wanted to pull together a few photos that represent some of those experiences.

“Working from Home”: A Compilation

“Working from Home” image compilation by Spencer Brayton is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

These images are referenced in the following from top to bottom:

Couple working at home” by Crew is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

My New Desk” by Andrew Sorensen is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Modern Family” by Tony Alter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What Makes Up a CC License?

Unit 3 of the CC course was really informative and I appreciated learning the ins and outs of the licenses. The unit focused on several elements as we gained more knowledge about applying the different licenses:

1. The 3 different layers of CC licenses

2. The 4 elements for each license

3. The 6 CC licenses and 2 tools for the public domain, including how they differ from each other

4. How fair use and other exceptions / limitations to copyright affect CC licenses

Three Layers of CC Licenses

The three layers of these licenses are the Legal Code Layer, Human Readable Layer, and Machine Readable Layer.

The Legal Code Layer is the foundation and contains “legal terms and conditions that are enforceable in court” (language that lawyers use and apply in their work) (“Anatomy of a CC License” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

The Human Readable Layer (or Common Deeds) are “web pages that lay out the key license terms” and are not legally enforceable, but do provide a summary of the legal code (“Anatomy of a CC License” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Last, the Machine Readable Layer is the final layer and requires a bit more detail in definition:

“The final layer of the license design recognizes that software plays a critical role in the creation, copying, discovery, and distribution of works. In order to make it easy for websites and web services to know when a work is available under a Creative Commons license, we provide a “machine readable” version of the license—a summary of the key freedoms granted and obligations imposed written into a format that applications, search engines, and other kinds of technology can understand. We developed a standardized way to describe licenses that software can understand called CC Rights Expression Language (CC REL) to accomplish this. When this metadata is attached to CC licensed works, someone searching for a CC licensed work using a search engine (e.g., Google advanced search) can more easily discover CC licensed works” (“Anatomy of a CC License” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

The 4 Elements for Each CC License

Combinations of the elements below create the 6 CC licenses:

Attribution (“BY”) – All CC licenses have this.

NonCommercial (“NC”) – Works are only available for noncommercial purposes. Three CC licenses have this restriction.

ShareAlike (“SA”) – Adaptions based on the work need to be licensed under the same license (two of the CC licenses have this).

NoDerivatives (“ND”) – Reusers are not able to share adaptations of the work (two of the CC licenses have this restriction).

(“Anatomy of a CC License” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0)

The 6 CC licenses and 2 tools for the public domain, including how they differ from each other

Each of the 6 CC licenses:

“…include the BY condition. In other words, all of the licenses require that the creator be attributed in connection with their work. Beyond that commonality, the licenses vary whether (1) commercial use of the work is permitted; and (2) whether the work can be adapted, and if so, on what terms” (“License Types” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Below is each CC license explained, which will also help to show how they differ.

C BY image

“The Attribution license or “CC BY” allows people to use the work for any purpose (even commercially and even in modified form) as long as they give attribution to the creator.”

C BY SA image

“The Attribution-ShareAlike license or “BY-SA” allows people to use the work for any purpose (even commercially and even in modified form), as long as they give attribution to the creator and make any adaptations they share with others available under the same or a compatible license. This is CC’s version of a copyleft license, and is the license required for content uploaded to Wikipedia, for example.”

C BY NC image

“The Attribution-NonCommercial license or “BY-NC” allows people to use the work for noncommercial purposes only, and only as long as they give attribution to the creator.”

C BY ND image

“The Attribution-NoDerivatives license or “BY-ND” allows people to use the unadapted work for any purpose (even commercially), as long as they give attribution to the creator.”

C BY NC SA image

“The Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license or “BY-NC-SA” allows people to use the work for noncommercial purposes only, and only as long as they give attribution to the creator and make any adaptations they share with others available under the same or a compatible license.”

C BY NC ND image

“The Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license or “BY-NC-ND is the most restrictive license offered by CC. It allows people to use the unadapted work for noncommercial purposes only, and only as long as they give attribution to the creator.”

(“License Types” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0)

Two areas that really make these licenses different are NonCommercial (NC) and Commercial use, and Adaptations. The NonCommercial (NC) licenses (BY-NC, BY-NC-SA, and BY-NC-ND) limit any reuse of the work to noncommercial objectives. For adaptations, the difference with licensing has to do with whether or not works can be adapted and shared:

oDerrivatives image

NoDerivatives – Two of the licenses (BY-ND and BY-NC-ND) prohibit reusers from sharing (i.e. distributing or making available) adaptations of the licensed work. To be clear, this means anyone may create adaptations of works under an ND license so long as they do not share the work with others in adapted form. This allows, among other things, organizations to engage in text and data mining without violating the ND term.”

hareAlike image

ShareAlike – Two of the licenses (BY-SA and BY-NC-SA) require that if adaptations of the licensed work are shared, they must be made available under the same or a compatible license. For ShareAlike purposes, the list of compatible licenses is short. It includes later versions of the same license (e.g., BY-SA 4.0 is compatible with BY-SA 3.0) and a few non-CC licenses designated as compatible by Creative Commons (e.g., the Free Art License). You can read more about this here, but the most important thing to remember is that ShareAlike requires that if you share your adaptation, you must do so using the same or a compatible license.”

(“License Types” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0)

Public Domain Tools (not licenses)

There are two public domain tools created by CC:

C 0

CC0 enables creators to dedicate their works to the worldwide public domain to the greatest extent possible. Note that some jurisdictions do not allow creators to dedicate their works to the public domain, so CC0 has other legal mechanisms included to help deal with this situation where it applies. You might also see this tool being used by museums, libraries or archives. This doesn’t mean they are claiming copyright over those works, but rather they are waiving all possible rights they might have in other jurisdictions to the reproductions of those works.”

ublic Domain mark

The Public Domain Mark is a label used to mark works known to be free of all copyright restrictions. Unlike CC0, the Public Domain Mark has no legal effect when applied to a work. It serves only as a label to inform the public about the public domain status of a work and is often used by museums, libraries and archives working with very old works.”

(“Anatomy of a CC License” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0)

Essentially, both these tools allow for awareness about works in the public domain to encourage greater sharing, reuse and remixing. For more information about CC efforts and the public domain, please see this page.

Exceptions and Limitations to Copyright

CC licenses do not affect exceptions and limitations to copyright (ex. fair use and fair dealing):

“…By design, CC licenses do not reduce, limit, or restrict any rights under exceptions and limitations to copyright, such as fair use, fair dealing, or provisions for people with disabilities as the ones contemplated in the Marrakesh Treaty. If your use of CC-licensed material would otherwise be allowed because of an applicable exception or limitation, you do not need to rely on the CC license or comply with its terms and conditions. This is a fundamental principle of CC licensing”

(“License Scope” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Applying a CC license to an exception would not be applicable because more flexible use is already allowed under fair use, for example. I tend to think about this as if I were to add a license to fair use it would potentially be more restrictive and reverse the intended idea of these exceptions / limitations to copyright.

In summary, this unit was something that I had been waiting for. It was really helpful to further understand all the licensing and associated applications. I hope this helps you as well. Also, throughout this post I have shared images related to CC. For more information on these, please visit this webpage. I would also recommend checking out this FAQ.

Thanks for reading!

“Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright. They are built to work with it.”

The above quote from “Module 2: Copyright Law” does well to summarize that last two weeks of learning for me. Module 2 focused on more detailed readings and videos about the history of copyright, what it is and is not, other intellectual copyright protections, the public domain, and fair use. The discussion prompt for this week in the CC certificate course really resonated with me and brought me back to my previous work co-teaching a media and information literacy course, where we had similar discussions about originality, copyright and remix culture.

Purpose of Copyright

The purpose of copyright is what it grants to an author of a work (meaning, the law’s purpose is to protect the author’s rights). The law “establishes the basic terms of use that apply automatically to works of original authorship. These terms give the copyright holder certain exclusive rights while also recognizing that users have certain rights to use these works without the need for permission” (“Copyright Basics” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0). There are also some foundational points to take into consideration in terms of what can be under copyright and permissions, which can be reviewed here.

Copyright’s purpose also needs to include discussion of two rationales: Utilitarian and Author’s rights. Under the Utilitarian rationale “copyright is designed to provide an incentive to creators. The aim is to encourage the creation and publication of new works for social benefits” (“Copyright Basics” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0). The Author’s rights rationale states that “copyright protection serves to recognize and protect the deep connection authors have with their creative works. This rationale is founded upon moral rights, which ensure attribution for authors and preserve the integrity of creative works” (“Copyright Basics” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0). Reflecting on both rationale’s, we see the basis of copyright, creation for the public good and protections for the author. Next, we learned more about global copyright standards and certain rights granted to creators as it relates to copyright law.

The Berne Convention was not new to me, but something I did not know about in as much detail as I would’ve liked before this course. While copyright law can be different depending on the country, the Berne Convention helped to set some standards. There are also exclusive rights that can be interpreted differently from country to country, but essentially this means that “creators who have copyright get exclusive rights to control certain uses of their works by others” (“Copyright Basics” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

What is copyrightable?

Facts and ideas are not copyrightable and “as a general rule, copyright is automatic the moment a work is created, though some countries require that the work be fixed in a tangible medium before granting copyright” (“Copyright Basics” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0). In general (and depending on the country), the following broad list provides examples of works that are copyrightable:

  • Literary & musical works
  • Artistic works or works of visual art
  • Dramatic works
  • Cinematographic works (including audiovisual works)
  • Translations, adaptations, arrangements of literary and artistic works
  • Collections of literary and artistic works,
  • Databases
  • Computer software (“Copyright Basics” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Overall it is important to understand that for works to fall under copyright, they need to be in a tangible format and not reside as a thought you have.

Trademarks and Patents

Other protections to intellectual property include trademark and patent laws.

“Trademark law generally protects the public from being confused about the source of goods and services. The holder of a trademark is generally allowed to prevent uses of its trademark by others if the public will be confused” (“Copyright Basics” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0). Think of a well-known organization that is easily recognizable. One example is the bulls-eye logo for Target. The law also “helps producers of goods and services protect their reputation, and it protects the public by giving them a simple way to differentiate between similar products and services” (“Copyright Basics” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Patent law involves inventions. This law “gives inventors a time-limited monopoly to their inventions — things like mouse traps or new mobile phone technology. Patents typically give inventors the exclusive right to make, have made, use, have used, offer for sale, sell, have sold, or import patentable inventions” (“Copyright Basics” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Obtaining Copyright Protection

As stated above, copyright is automatically in place as soon as the work is in a tangible format. This could be as simple as writing something down on a notepad or napkin. In the United States, an author can work with the national copyright office to register their work. Of course, the process is not the same in all countries, which the Berne Convention also provides information about.

The Public Domain

The public domain are works not subject to copyright law. So, how do works come to fall in the public domain? There are four ways:

1. The copyright expires. Although copyright covers author’s rights for decades after their death, the works do eventually fall into public domain.

2. The work isn’t entitled to copyright protections. The Berne Convention also provided guidance in this area:

“The Berne Convention identifies additional categories, such as official texts of a legislative, administrative, and legal nature, leaving member countries to decide if they exempt those texts from copyright protection. Most countries deny copyright for statutes, as an example. In some countries, works created by government employees are excluded from copyright protection and are not eligible for copyright” (“The Public Domain” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

3. The author dedicates their work to the public domain prior to copyright expiration.

4. The author failed to acquire or maintain copyright of their work.

(“The Public Domain” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Within the public domain module, I found the discussion around indigenous cultural heritage a much needed education:

“To be clear, these traditional cultural expressions might not be protected by copyright. However, this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily free for reuse or posting on the Internet. In view of the cultural rights or interests and customary laws or protocols that might govern their access and use, these cultural expressions deserve to be treated respectfully. It is recommended not to post them online or allow their re-use without prior consultations with the community(ies) that are their custodian” (“The Public Domain” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

I believe this area should be more front and center when it comes to copyright education and am glad it is included in this course.

Exceptions and Limitations to Copyright

Fair Use and Fair Dealing are two exceptions to copyright. The Berne Convention was first to establish fair use, which identified a three-step test and that some countries went on to enact legislation for certain purposes (educational, accessibility, etc.) (“Exceptions and Limitations to Copyright” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

In the United States, we find the concept of fair use to be the preferred method in thinking of exceptions to copyright, which includes the four-factor test, “where a federal judge considers:

1) the purpose and character of your use,

2) the nature of the copyrighted work,

3) the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and

4) the effect of the use upon the potential market.”

(“Exceptions and Limitations to Copyright” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).


This two week look into the details surrounding copyright history and where we are today was much needed, even though it was difficult to sort through the legal implications at times. In reflecting on this unit, I wonder if the original intent of copyright – to serve the public interest – has been lost more so to protections in the interest of individual or financial gain. Regardless, the unit painted an important picture of how CC licenses work with copyright for reuse in the public interest.

Beginning the Creative Commons Certificate Program

This past week, I started the Creative Commons certificate program. I was slightly apprehensive about taking a course during a time where work demands are increased during the pandemic. Despite this, I found the Creative Commons (CC) staff to be an amazing, supportive and dedicated team. I also have access to a network of colleagues working on OER at their institutions and am grateful to be able to learn from them.

As I started to dive into the readings and assignments, I found myself thinking where I wanted this work to live so I could share my experiences more broadly with colleagues, as well as make it accessible for work being undertaken at my own institution. I decided to make this space, which has been inactive for longer than I would like, the environment with which to share my experiences in the program. You’ll notice at the bottom of this page, I have chosen to attribute this information I share here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (thanks to Scott Helme’s blog for helping me get started).

Unit of one of the program this week provided a foundation and historical perspective on Creative Commons, which was created by Lawrence Lessig and colleagues at Stanford University in 2002.  This introductory and historical look at the development of this work was inspiring to learn about, specifically the tensions between technology and copyright. Here it is worth defining CC and it’s goals:

“Creative Commons is a set of legal tools, a nonprofit organization, as well as a global network and a movement – all inspired by people’s willingness to share their creativity and knowledge, and enabled by a set of open copyright licenses” (“What Is Creative Commons?” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Personally, I connect with this definition because I believe in openly sharing and creating information, and have learned the benefit from many colleagues who have helped me in my own work. CC also resonated with me because of what it works to accomplish, especially in their response to copyright systems that had not been adapted as technology increasingly made information sharing more ubiquitous. Further, “CC’s founders recognized the mismatch between what technology enables and what copyright restricts, and they provided an alternative approach for creators who want to share their work. Today that approach is used by millions of creators around the globe” and there are approximately 2 billion works available today with a CC license (“The Story of Creative Commons” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0). Creative Commons has been an increasingly important organization and movement, but the challenges to copyright law have not always been successful.

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 was a crucial point in the history and development of Creative Commons. This piece of copyright legislation “extended the term of copyright for every work in the United States—even those already copyrighted—for an additional 20 years, so the copyright term equaled the life of the creator plus 70 years” (“The Story of Creative Commons” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0). Not only did this add additional years to the copyright holders term, but also meant the work would take longer to pass into the public domain, limiting further knowledge creation:

“The end of a copyright term is important—it marks the moment the work moves into the public domain for everyone to use for any purpose without permission. This is a critical part of the equation in the copyright system. All creativity and knowledge builds on what came before, and the end of a copyright term ensures that copyrighted works eventually join the pool of knowledge and creativity from which we can all draw to create new works ” (“The Story of Creative Commons” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Due to both the increased extension of copyright law and decreased ability for others to create and build off of this knowledge, Lawrence Lessig would pose a legal challenge to the Copyright Term Extension Act. In the case of Eldred v . Ashcroft, Lessig would represent a web publisher (Eric Eldred). Eldred’s work was in stark contrast to this new law, as he used his expertise to make available any information that would enter into the public domain. Even though Lessig and Eldred would eventually lose the case, CC emerged and continues to have momentum today:

“Technology makes it possible for online content to be consumed by millions of people at once, and it can be copied, shared, and remixed with speed and ease. But copyright law places limits on our ability to take advantage of these possibilities. Creative Commons was founded to help us realize the full potential of the internet”

(“The Story of Creative Commons” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

I see this as the intersection of my own work as a librarian working to promote and support OER on my campus, as well as a media and information literacy educator, facilitating conversations and empowering students to create and remix so they are confident in seeing themselves as active participants in knowledge creation.

Much of what I learned during this first unit was new to me. This was especially highlighted by all the ways we can get involved with Creative Commons on a national and global scale:

“The CC Global Network (CCGN), is a place for everyone interested in and working with open movements. CCGN members come from diverse backgrounds and include lawyers, activists, scholars, artists, and more, working on a wide range of projects and issues connected to sharing and collaboration. The CC Global Network has over 600 members, and over 40 Chapters around the world. To learn more, see if there is a Chapter in your country or contact The Network Platforms are the thematic areas of the Network where volunteers collaborate on activities and projects. CC’s Network Platforms are open to everyone and include the Open Education Platform, a Copyright Platform, and an Open GLAM Platform” (“Creative Commons Today” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).

Thanks for reading. I hope this helps sort out the development of CC as much as it did for me.

18th Annual Information Literacy Summit in Illinois

On April 5, Natasha and I attended the 18th Annual Information Literacy Summit at Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) in Palos Hills, Illinois (co-sponsored by DePaul University, Chicago). It was our third time attending this one day conference and we’d seen some pretty amazing presentations and keynotes in the past, including Emily Drabinski, and Wendy Holiday. Once again the event did not disappoint. This year’s featured speaker was Dr. Nicole Cooke from the iSchool at the University of Illinois and she kicked off the Summit with her keynote “News, Media and Disinformation: Making Sense in Today’s Information Landscape”, introducing and providing depth to concepts of disinformation and misinformation. Especially interesting was her discussion on the emotional dimensions of information consumption. Her presentation also set the tone for a Summit that provided much in the way of practical, hands-on, classroom exercises from a majority of presentations, which was great to see.

Two excellent additions to this year’s Summit included:

  1. A Google folder created by the Summit hosts for attendees to take collaborative notes on each session.
  2. A closing conversation with a focus on critical librarianship and emergent strategies during which participants had the opportunity to discuss ideas in more depth with one another.

These two collaborative approaches to the Summit created more connections and networking (at least in our opinion) than previous years.

If you have yet to make to this one-day, low-cost conference (only $25 this year if you presented!), we strongly encourage you to take a look at this opportunity for 2020 (call for papers is usually in January) – check them out on Twitter @ILSummit. Year after year, we see wonderful keynote presenters and attendees from all over the U.S. Check out the Information Literacy Summit website, where you can access keynotes and presentations from the past several years. And shout out to the librarians and other organizers at MVCC and DePaul for coordinating yet another successful event.

Critical perspectives from sunny Savannah

We recently attended the 7th Annual International Critical Media Literacy conference in Savannah, Georgia. A small, but powerful event that brings together educators and activists from diverse fields including education, English, TESL, communications/media, and librarians, to name but a few.

There were two librarians presenting this year – one more than last year! And there is definitely room for more. A critical information literacy (#critlib) approach would bring much to the critical media literacy conversation. Our chapter on this very topic was recently published in Angela Pashia and Jessica Critten’s collection Critical Approaches to Credit-Bearing Information Literacy Courses .

The conference was expanded to two full days this year, thanks to the hard work of William Reynolds and Georgia Southern University, as well as ACME board members. This provided for two keynote speakers in addition to more opportunities to learn from one another. A great example was Jeff Share’s closing session that brought a more informal, participatory dynamic, where the group could freely exchange ideas, closing thoughts, and comments for future directions. Two days also ensured we could enjoy the decidedly warmer weather of Georgia, which was about a 40 degree improvement on Illinois.

We had the honor of coordinating a panel discussing practical classroom approaches to media and information literacy, participating with Ralph Beliveau, Julie Frechette, and Jeff Share. No one will be surprised to hear that they had thoughtful and incisive comments to make on the topic.

If you missed the conference, sometime in the next few weeks you can browse the contents on the ICML website. The call for papers usually goes out in October/November every year.  

The Challenges of Collaboration

It’s been some time since we’ve had the space to write a blog post together. Work, publication deadlines, sabbaticals, and new jobs are some of our good excuses. In light of this, we thought we would share how we’re able to continue our collaborative research despite these obstacles, including now working at different institutions.

Although collaboration has long been a buzzword in academia, often there is little institutional support (in terms of time, know-how or finances) to transform good collaborative intentions into actual classroom practices. But by working together, we were forced to critically reflect on each other’s power in the classroom, as well as our own intellectual backgrounds, recognizing that there are many differences that must be worked out for a collaborative approach to work. More significantly, our collaboration caused us to be both more critical of our individual teaching practices but also more empathetic.


Photo by from Pexels

Collaboration, in terms of research, faces fewer obvious institutional hurdles but has its own set of challenges. When we first started learning more about each other’s discipline for our combined media and information literacy teaching and research collaboration, we soon found that we were learning alongside one another, which better served our partnership. It might sound a little strange to even note the fact that we were learning alongside one another – after all, we work in academia. But we suspect, like many who read this, that although disturbing, relatively little of our time is dedicated to actually learning new things, let alone learning with a colleague in a different discipline.

We think collaboration and openness go hand-in-hand. We wouldn’t be as open with our work if not for our own collaboration and sharing of ideas, even when we don’t always agree. Often out of disagreement comes insight into not only how narrow your own ideas or perspective might be, but the opportunity to reconceptualize an idea or issue through another disciplinary lens is invaluablein the evolution of thinking. Baldwin and Chang (2007) noted, “One of the principal benefits of collaborating with others is to achieve goals that cannot be achieved alone. In fact, one definition of collaboration characterizes the process as “an effective interpersonal process that facilitates the achievement of goals that cannot be reached when individual professionals act on their own” (Bronstein 2003).

For us, nothing beats working through ideas in person. But now that we are in different locations and opportunities for working this way are infrequent, we spend a lot of time on Google Drive organizing our work and planning out next projects. Much of our collaborative work takes place on evenings and weekends (especially writing), with weekly phone calls scheduled in advance to help keep us on track. These calls also serve to keep us engaged with the disciplines we work in, exchange resources and provide perspective on our day-to-day work. It’s hard. It’s definitely not ideal. We feel it’s worth it though. We continue to explore new ideas, write and present at conferences, re-connecting with colleagues we first met when we initially started our work (looking at you International Critical Media Literacy Conference).

There is always risk and uncertainty (egos must be checked and compromise is not always easy) in an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach, but new learning and new resources lead to growth and development of ideas and deeper understandings. As McDaniel and Colarulli (1997) observed, “Real collaboration cannot help but create conflict; and it requires compromise, sharing of power and responsibility…”

Shout out to Ian O’Byrne whose reference to the work on ‘Openness as social practice’ sparked the initial kernel for this topic, which then morphed into our first blog post of 2019. We hope to write more this year. Thanks for reading.

Natasha & Spencer