Creative Commons licensing supports the body of work that is available to the public for free or the purpose of use, adapting, changing, and re-mixing. Creative Commons is the nonprofit organization that works to create the legal tools and standardized policies to support creative and freely available publications.
Many Open Educational Resources are made available thanks to Open Access Publishing. The concept of Open Access publishing was developed in Budapest and Berlin in the early 2000s. Its goal is to offer unrestricted online access to scholarly research, primarily intended for display scholarly journal articles. Additionally, the level of access should be such that users are able to "copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship." (read the full Budapest Open Access Initiative here).
Open Access licensing can be separated into the two categories described below:
Certain resources are not protected by copyright at all and are freely available and editable as such. These include:
With the wealth of free resources available to educators, it is well worth taking the time to find good quality free resources that fulfill the needs of you and your students. It is important to note however that with the proliferation of the internet a number of pirated resources are widely available for free. These are not the same as Open Access, Public Domain, or copyright free works. It is therefore necessary to do your due diligence to determine the copyright status of any resource that you intend to distribute, edit, reproduce, or otherwise use. The best policy is to assume that a resource is fully copyright protected unless you have a concrete statement from the rightsholder which tells you otherwise.
U.S. Copyright law includes provisions for "Fair Use" which allows certain rights for reuse at no cost for copyrighted materials as long as the material and use meet certain conditions. Fair Use when reasonably applied can be a powerful tool for educators. For more on Fair Use see here.
U.S. Copyright law exists to protect the rights of content creators so that they have control over the reproduction and distribution of their works. It is assumed that because these protections allow artists and authors to assess fees for their works the protections in turn encourage content creators to do just that: create content.
Because of their open and free nature, OER may have some specialized use licensing that differs slightly from traditional copyright agreements.
If you cannot find a specific copyright statement on a work, you must assume that it is fully protected by copyright. If a work is protected by copyright, you may still be able to argue that your use of the work is "Fair Use" (see below).
The information provided here is not legal advice and is not to be acted on as such, it may not be current and is subject to change without notice.