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Open Educational Resources (OER)

This guide provides information for learning about open educational resources (OER) and curates resources and information to support OER work at Western Technical College.


In order to fully understand OER, you need to understand a little bit about copyright.

"Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device" (17 U.S.C. § 102).

Copyright refers to a creator's exclusive right to duplicate, distribute, tweak, remix, or publicly perform or display their works. Copyright protects fixed, original, and creative works. Further, copyright protection exists whether or not there is a notice included with the work--it is presumed the moment a work is created and fixed in a tangible form. 

Copyright Basics

There are many excellent resources that give an overview of the essentials of copyright. 


Copyright Law and Resources from the U.S. Copyright Office

Fair Use

Fair use offers an exception to the exclusive copyright protections granted to a creator. Fair use enables limited use of works--typically for purposes of criticism, comment, reporting, teaching, or research--without obtaining permission from the creator or copyright holder. There isn't a definite rule as to whether a use of a work is "fair," but rather each of the following four factors must be considered:

The Four Factors of Fair Use

  1. Purpose and character of the use
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. Effect of the use upon the potential market value

The Copyright and Fair Use Guide from Stanford University Libraries offers a more comprehensive discussion of these four factors. 

Educational Use and Copyright for Educators

Contrary to popular opinion, being an educator doesn't exempt you from copyright restrictions. However, it's true that there are some exceptions and limitations under copyright law for using other people’s works for educational purposes.

Educational Uses

And what does this have to do with OER???

All of these copyright rules and exceptions are in place on any created work, but creators have the ability to choose what is done with the works they create. And that's where OER comes in.

By applying an open license such as a Creative Commons license (more about that on the next page), the creator indicates that they want others to be able to use their work freely and openly. They can also designated how they would like that to be done. 

Western Technical College

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Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. For details and exceptions, see the Library Copyright Statement.
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