Identify & Using Existing Resources – Copyright

Open doesn’t just apply to the finished resource, it applies to all of the elements within the resource. All of the images, tables, and other content within the resource need to be open or free of copyright protection. When adopting or adapting a resource, you need to be aware of how the resource can be used. It’s important to remember that just because an item is available online, it does not give an individual the right to use the work however they choose.

Many faculty members choose to make their teaching and learning materials, resources, or full courses publicly available online, which means that anyone with an Internet connection can access and view the resources. This means that when faculty members post content openly on the Internet, they are effectively publishing that content online for a global audience.

Using copyrighted materials in an open environment requires more diligence than using those same materials in a classroom or learning management system at UBC. Since the audience is not limited to registered students, the use of third-party copyrighted material is more likely to require the permission of the copyright owner(s), and the inappropriate use of such material is more likely to generate complaints. Further, many of the educational exceptions that allow classroom use of copyrighted material without permission either do not apply in the open environment or apply only in a limited fashion.

Public Domain

The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it. In Canada copyright expires 50 years after the death of the creator, at the end of the relevant calendar year. Public domain material then is free for you to use any way you choose. That means there are no restrictions on copying and adapting, and there is no need to seek permission to use the content.

Licenses and Permissions

If you are looking for content to add to your text, you should look for and use Creative Commons (or similar) licensed material or items that are in the Public Domain. If you want to use materials that are not released in the public domain or under a Creative Commons license, you can do so by obtaining written permission from the copyright holder to use this material in your text. However, this process limits how others can use or reuse that material, meaning that your text will not be truly open. If obtaining special permissions, clearly note in the textbook license and on the specific material that the items are copyrighted so that other adapting the book in the future know they cannot reuse that material without permission.


UBC Supports – Using and Finding Third Party Materials

To learn about the kinds of support available for your open textbook project, review UBC Supports.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

UBC Open Text Publishing Guide Copyright © 2022 by Erin Fields; Amanda Grey; Donna Langille; and Clair Swanson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book