Copyright: Creative Commons and Open Access

Copyright laws and practices can be really confusing. They were obviously written by lawyers and lawmakers, and although everyone is expected to follow the laws, they are very complicated for most people to understand. Also, copyright laws and practices are designed to restrict the use of materials, which is contrary to the objectives of most libraries.

Are you familiar with Creative Commons and Open Access? Open Access materials are governed by a simple licence from the copyright owner to the user, instead of being governed by copyright laws. In many cases, the Open Access materials have no restrictions and can be used by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose. Creative Commons is a specific licensing system for Open Access materials, allowing creators to impose some specific, easy-to-understand restrictions on the use of their materials.


Because Open Access and Creative Commons licences operate on top of copyright laws, they work internationally and are universal across the globe.

There are huge collections of materials available with Creative Commons licences attached. Flickr is a great source of Creative Commons images. Wikimedia is a great source, as well.

Here are some questions to think about and to talk to your partner about:

  • Are you familiar with Open Access and Creative Commons materials?
  • Do you use Open Access or Creative Commons in your library? Do you use materials with these kinds of licences? Do you attach these kinds of licences to materials you create in your library?
  • Is open and equitable access to materials an important objective for you and/or your library?

Alison Makins, ILN’s Legal and Risk Consultant


Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2015B and tagged , , , .

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