Licensing models

Why CC BY and CC BY SA?

These two licences are called free or fully opened license. Free licences are a kind of agreement between an author/copyright holder and the rest of the universe. In this arrangement the intellectual property rights stay attached to the creator, but in the same time the author is able to (under some simple to define conditions) agree on:

  • making unlimited copies of the work,
  • unlimited distribution of the work, also for commercial purposes,
  • adaptation of the work (derivative works).

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) and Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike (CC BY-SA) licenses are recommended by UNESCO for Open Educational Resources.

The definition of such a freedom is not legally described, but it is mirrored in documentation well-known and accepted by the OER community. You can find the Definition of Free Culutre Works here:

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)

This license allows maximized free re-use of the work (changes, adaptations, making copies, redistribution), also for commercial purposes with a possibility for changing the license for derivative works. It requires only attribution of the author, that means putting the proper name of the person/institution that created the work. The Attribution license requires the least conditions to be fulfilled by a user.  This license is also a best choice when the author allows for the widest commercial re-use of the work and the easiest re-distribution and promotion of it. Unfortunately CC BY license blocks harnessing OER available under CC BY-SA like open e-textbook published under CC BY eg. Wikipedia resources cannot be used in such an open textbook.

In the perspective of a textbook market, resources under CC BY license can be used in commercial products. Private market entities are able to build new business models upon open textbooks i.e. through further development of these materials, creation of additional content for learners, guidelines for teachers, multimedia and so on.

Creative Commons Attribution – Share alike (CC BY–SA)

Authors should choose this license if they would like to be guaranteed that all derivative works that were built upon the original ones will be available and open for all users as well as  for the creators.

It is a “virus” license as it requires the users to publish derivative works under the same license. Wikipedia resources are published under this license and each project that makes use of Wikipedia has to be available under CC BY-SA. The copyleft character of this license guarantees the same level of the access to the original and derivative works. Such a solution leads to a situation in which no matter who and when uses the content, he or she must obey the same rules: CC BY-SA. The “Share alike” condition makes the openness stronger every time somebody re-uses resources under CC BY-SA, he or she is obliged to publish on the same conditions.

This license can be also a good protection from commercial adaptation of the work. Even though CC BY-SA allows for usage the work for profits, most commercial publishers strongly prefer to publish under more restrictive rules and they in fact do not decide to harness CC BY-SA licensed resources.

When we combine several works and create derivative works, several solution are possible:

1) when usage of the work under CC BY-SA leads to developing a new work, the license will work as a virus (combined works are not independent) for it. In practice this means that if in an e-textbook a publisher uses parts of Wikipedia articles, not only those fragments but whole e-textbooks must be published under CC BY-SA.

2) when the work is a collection of works and one of them is available under CC BY-SA. In such a situation the license does not influence the work. If a photo is used as an illustration of a text, only the image must by published under original conditions but the text can be available under different licenses eg. CC BY.

3) dividing the textbook/the work on separate modules – only this scenario allows for usage of text under various licenses. These modules can be available under different licenses depending on the license of the original works used in the module.

Want to know more?

Reusing content outside Wikimedia

Free Learning Essays on open educationa l resources and copyright, Stephen Downes, National Research Council Canada


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