Copyright and Open Licensing

Copyright is a legal term describing the rights given to creators for their literary and/or artistic work. The kinds of work covered by copyright are very diverse and include most of the content contained in teaching and learning material. 

Copyright is automatic; as soon as there is a record in any form of the work created (e.g. written down or recorded) copyright comes into effect. The author or creator of the work is automatically the owner and has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, license and to prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work. The line for anyone else to cross copyright exceptions and use somebody else's work (for quotes, for example) is, unfortunately, very blurred. In most cases the only option is to contact the right owner and ask for permission.

Task 1

Relevant terms you may come across in relation with copyright are: fair use - public domain - commercial use. Find definitions and examples of these terms and share your findings and source on our virtual pinboard.


Open content licenses have been invented so that creators can exercise their copyright and balance access and control of their intellectual property.

"A legal mechanism that has been developed, known as open content licensing that provides copyright owners with a facility for sharing their content with the world and thereby establishing a zone or space on the internet for lawful and seamless access. (...) Importantly, open content licenses can be represented in machine readable metadata which can allow the technology to understand the legal obligations attaching to a particular document.(...). Ultimately, the belief is that if we can harness the great store of information that exists we can tackle problems and provide insights and solutions on a scale greater than we have ever done before". (source)

Important Note: In adult education in particular, teachers, trainers, tutors, or mentors need to be well-informed about the rights and regulations that are imposed on them by the institution or organization they are working for. In some institutions, for example, the exchange of the material among colleagues may be allowed (or even encouraged), but not the release of resources with an open license! Furthermore, the protection of intellectual property not only affects teaching professionals who create or repurpose teaching and learning material. Open pedagogies increasingly involve the learner in the development of resources (find out more in module 5), who therefore need to be made aware of the rules of copyright as well. More information on how to teach copyright you may find on:


continue with module 2...