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Introduction to Open Pedagogy: Open Licenses

This guide is a quick overview of Open Pedagogy practices.

Spectrum of Rights

The Spectrum of Rights

An open license is a way for creators to proactively communicate to the public about how copyrighted material can and cannot be used. Open licensing options fill the gap between "all rights reserved" copyright (which protects everything from storing copies of a work to modifying the work) and the public domain (no copyright protection). Popular open licensing mechanisms, such as Creative Commons (CC), allow creators, remixers, and content users to quickly and easily understand how we can legally use and adapt other people's work. CC-licenses are easy to recognize and apply to your own work. A license can be applied to anything copyrightable, such as books, blogs, music, videos, images, software, data, and more!


There are six major CC-licenses that all include different combinations of four basic requirements.

Creative Commons



You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work—and derivative works based upon it —but only if they give you credit the way you request. This element is a part of all six licenses.


You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work —and derivative works based upon it—but for noncommercial purposes only.

  No Derivatives

You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only exact copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

  Share Alike

You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.

spectrum image

Creative commons license spectrum


The image above shows the Creative Commons license spectrum between public domain (top) and all rights reserved (bottom). The left side indicates what uses are allowed (e.g., remixing or modifying content) while the right side shows what CC-license components communicate allowable uses. Visit the source for additional information about shading and compatibility with other open licenses, such as the GNU General Public License

Related Films

Related Films

RiP: A Remix Manifesto

Join filmmaker Brett Gaylor and mashup artist Girl Talk as they explore copyright and content creation in the digital age. In the process they dissect the media landscape of the 21st century and shatter the wall between users and producers.

The Internet's Own Boy

A dynamic and tragic portrait of the life of Reddit co-founder and computer prodigy Aaron Swartz, a champion of open access who grew up to lead the internet community into a new age of data sharing and free speech.

Copyright Basics

Copyright. All rights reserved.

Things to Know:

1. Copyright is a legal right intended to "to promote the progress of science and useful arts."

2. Copyright applies automatically when a work is fixed in a tangible form. Registration is not required. This means you should always assume a work is protected by copyright even when it doesn't include a copyright symbol.

3. Copyright is a bundle of rights, which can be debundled, rather than a single right. This bundle includes the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, perform, and display the work.

4. Copyright protections generally last the life of the creator plus 70 years.

Fair Use Fundamentals by Association of Research Libraries in licensed CC BY 4.0.

Fair use is a legal right that defines conditions under which members of the public may legally use copyrighted work without first contacting the copyright owner. View other infographics about fair use, including Fair Use Myths & Facts and Fair Use in a Day in the Life of a College Student.

For additional information, visit UTA Libraries' guide on copyright and fair use.


This guide to open licensing was created by Michelle Reed of the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.

The text describing CC-license components originally appeared in "The Beauty of ‘Some Rights Reserved’” by Molly Kleinman, published in College & Research Libraries News in November 2008. This version is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 (CC BY NC 4.0) license.

The "Creative Commons License Spectrum" was created by Shaddim; original CC license symbols by Creative Commons. The image is licensed CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.