Copyrighted, Openly Licensed and Other Zero Cost Materials

What exactly qualifies as an Open Educational Resource (OER)? It can be difficult to pin down.

UNESCO defines OER as “teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with intellectual property licenses that facilitate the free use, adaptation, and distribution of resources.” Many educators use David Wiley’s “5R Permissions” (retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute) to define what makes an OER.

TeachOER embraces both of these definitions and our team makes every effort to provide links to resources that can be used without restriction. However, given the developing nature of the OER landscape and our desire to provide as many resources and teaching materials as possible, we sometimes link to materials that can be categorized as “zero cost” or “free but not open.” These may be articles from online publications, video resources, or other media that are licensed for use without any direct cost but may not afford users other permissions such as revision or unrestricted redistribution.

Our acceptance of this diversity of licensing conditions is in part because this site was developed in collaboration with the Baruch College Center for Teaching and Learning’s OER Initiative. This initiative was part of a funded effort by the City University of New York to encourage the adoption of OER and to convert courses within the university system to “zero textbook cost” (ZTC). Because the overall aim was to lower the cost of course materials for CUNY’s student population, ZTC courses were defined to include OER as well as other course materials that are free of cost to students, but not necessarily openly licensed.

Infographic indicating that OER will be marked with a green "o," other openly licensed materials with a yellow "o," and zero cost materials with a yellow "z."

In order to facilitate understanding of the licensing conditions for the materials we link to, we have developed the simple system of visual markers shown above to indicate whether something is OER, otherwise openly licensed, or simply zero cost to students. Individual resources linked to teaching materials are marked to indicate their licensing conditions with a green “O” for OER, a yellow “O” for openly licensed but not OER, and a yellow “Z” for zero-cost materials.

In all cases, we strive to verify the copyright status of the resources that we link to or post and to indicate that status clearly. We are not responsible for incorrect, incomplete, or misleading copyright information provided by the creators of these resources.

If you have questions about the licensing of a resource on TeachOER you can contact us at info@teachoer.org.