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What Can You Freely Use in Course Materials?

A resource in the public domain can be used without restriction. This includes:

  • Works created for the public domain. The creator gives others free reign to reuse or mix content using a Creative Commons License.
  • Most work produced by the United States Government, see the rules and exceptions here
  • Works that have an expired copyright (i.e. 70 years after the creator's death, although not true for all items)

Adapted from IRSC Library OER libguide.


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Jennifer Flygare
Max Chambers Library
Office 115E
(405) 947-5971

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are online teaching and learning resources that are available on the open web free of charge. These can be textbooks, course materials, learning modules, videos and more.

The terms "open content" and "open educational resources" describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like "open source") that is either (1) in the public domain or (2) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  • Retain - make, own, and control a copy of the resource (e.g., download and keep your own copy)
  • Revise - edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource (e.g., translate into another language)
  • Remix - combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (e.g., make a mashup)
  • Reuse - use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (e.g., on a website, in a presentation, in a class)
  • Redistribute - share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (e.g., post a copy online or give one to a friend)

Getting Started

Creative Commons

Creative Commons Licenses

Some materials are provided for use through open licensing or Creative Commons. There are six different types of licenses that fall under the Creative Commons licenses permitting the use of the work without having to pay licensing fees or royalties. All of the licenses require appropriate credit to the original creation.

Chart of Creative Commons licenses from most free to least free.

Foter, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons