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Open Educational Resources (OER): Create OERs

Getting started

Creative Commons and how it helps us share digital content (YouTube, 5m30s) explains how to share downloaded digital content legally using Creative Commons licences.

image of Creative Commons logo CC

Many resources have a Creative Commons licence indicating the extent to which they can be shared or reused. Look for the Creative Commons licence symbols to determine exactly how a resource can be used. 

Creative Commons provides free copyright licences to offer a simple and standardised way to give permission to share and use creative works.

Creative Commons licenses - Most open to least open - CC0, BY, BY SA, BY ND, BY NC, BY NC SA, BY NC ND

The four different licence elements are:

 Attribution: You must always provide credit to the original author - BY

 Share-Alike: If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same licence as the original - SA

 Non-Commercial: You may not use the material for commercial purposes - NC

No-Derivatives: You may not distribute modified versions of the work - ND


For Open Educational Resources (OERs), try to use Creative Commons material with:

  • BY - This licence lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work, even commercially, as long as they credit the creator of the original.
  • BY-SA  - This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon a work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit the original creator and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Both these licences permit commercial use. If you are creating an open course or MOOC, that later is commercialised,  you can still use the resources if they have a BY or BY SA licence.

Image by [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

You must acknowledge the creator and include any copyright information when you use a resource.

The basic requirements are:

  • Name of the creator
  • Title of the work
  • Source e.g. URL 
  • Type of licence it is available under and a link to the licence

It is important to correctly attribute any images you use. James Cook University uses the acronym TASL for image attribution:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Source
  • Licence

Example of TASL

two chairs in the middle of book shelves

Chairs beside book shelves by Rafael Cosquiere is used under CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

One of the key aspects of OERs is the capacity to not only reuse but to modify or 'remix' some resources. This could be adapting resources to meet specific needs e.g. contextual pedagogic requirements or using resources from different sources together.

The capacity to modify resources is dependent upon them being licensed for modification using open licences such Creative Commons licences that do not feature the No Derivative Works (ND) element.

The OER Toolkit provides information on finding and remixing openly licensed resources.


Copyright protects the right of creators of works to determine how their works can be used.

When using images, copyright may restrict:

  • reproduction
  • publication
  • adaptation

When sharing or modifying resources it is important not to infringe copyright.


It is ok to use third party content in your OER when using:

  • URLs that link to content, as long as the content is authorised and not infringing copright.
  • Public domain material.
  • Openly licensed materials, including Creative Commons. Licensing OERs gives further information on the different types of open licences. You will need to check the terms of the licence as some have specific requirements regarding attributions and re-use.
  • Content copied with written permission of the copyright holder. Note: the permission would need to let you 'sub-licence' the content under a Creative Commons licence.

All other third party content is not OK to use. This includes content from Library databases, content copied under copyright licences (Part VA, Part VB  and the Music Licence), and online web content (unless available under an open licence).

The Open Educational Licensing Toolkit is a good resource to guide you in finding, using, adapting or sharing an OER.  

  • Creating or using original material where copyright is owned by you.

Resources need to be given a licence that allows for them to be shared, reused and adapted, most likely a Creative Commons licence to specify how it can be used by others. Tools such as the OER: Open Attribution Builder are available to help select the most appropriate licence.

Resources can be shared by making them available from Open Educational Resources repositories.

Another useful resource is the Open Educational Resources Toolkit created for Australian schools and TAFEs which guides you through the process of finding, creating and licensing OERs.   


Creative Commons licence chooser

Creative Commons License Chooser has been set up to help select a licence within a few easy steps although you may want to be familiar with licensing conditions.

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country

Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International License. Content from this Guide should be attributed to James Cook University Library. This does not apply to images, third party material (seek permission from the original owner) or any logos or insignia belonging to JCU or other bodies, which remain All Rights Reserved.