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OPEN FL: Spectrum of Open

Guide for the open and affordable learning community of Florida, OPEN FL.

Spectrum of Open



The open and affordable community of Florida, OPEN FL, has defined open in a spectrum.  As you begin around the O we start with public domain, the most open content we can use in an educational setting and where you should start your journey to find suitable, quality content.  When you work your way around the O, the openness of the content actually closes, but all efforts support an open and affordable learning environment for our students. 

For education and information on U.S. Copyright please see the Copyright Guide.

Content in the public domain has fallen out of copyright protection, has been placed in the domain by U.S. law, or was marked as public domain by the content creator.   

List of Resources for Finding Works in the Public Domain - This source list is provided by the Public Domain Review, an online journal and not-for-profit project dedicated to the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas. 

Copyright Genie The Copyright Genie will walk you through the steps to determine if a work is in copyright and, if it is, when it will enter the public domain.

Digital Copyright Slider From the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy, a visual and interactive way to figure out if something is under copyright.

Trademark and the Public Domain - an informative page on the Public Domain Sherpa website that offers insight into reusing works that are in the public domain (or whose copyrights have expired) yet include a trademark. Essentially, what it comes down to is how you use the trademark. To commit trademark infringement, you would have to use the trademark commercially and/or potentially confuse consumers regarding the identity of a product or service.

If you find materials with CC licenses, you are free to use the content as long as you follow the license requirements.  You can Search the Commons to find relevant content on a number of search engines and websites.

Creative Commons - A non-profit organization that works to increase the amount of scholarly works (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons" — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, re-purposing, and re-mixing.

Science Commons - A Creative Commons project "meant to lift legal and technical barriers to research and discovery".

Open access content is often licensed similarly to Creative Commons content, however there are no set license terms.  Each publisher may have different terms and permissions allowed, so content licenses and terms of agreements should be read thoroughly to understand what is permitted.

DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) - DOAJ is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals.

DOAB: Directory of Open Access Books - Directory of Open Access Books is a joint service of OAPEN, OpenEdition, CNRS and Aix-Marseille Université, provided by DOAB Foundation in cooperation with SemperTool

Traditional knowledge labels and terms/conditions: content from Indigenous communities which can be open but restricted in certain ways due to practices within the culture.

Content in this area is most likely open access; however, there is not a clear license.  The content should have no access barriers and must be free to use.  Content licenses, statements, and terms of agreements should be read thoroughly to understand what is permitted.  With this content it is advised that faculty link out to this content and not embed or re-mix into their course/work. 

Works within a library can include content that has fallen into the Public Domain, with Creative Commons Licenses, with Open Licenses, and purchased with education use permissions.  Many times you can find these works within your Special and Archives Collections. These types of works are most likely in the spectrum of open and can be used freely in the classroom.

Library licensed works (like subscription E-Resources) are NOT in the open and may only be used according to the library license terms. Please visit with your local librarian to discuss use terms if you have found library content you would like to use in your course. *With this content, it is advised that faculty link out to this content and not embed or re-mix into their course/work. If you are using library-licensed materials for an online course, such as on Canvas, you should consider providing perma-links, DOIs, or citations of the specific resource rather than including them in the learning management system (LMS) for students to download directly. This is beneficial for several reasons: usage statistics for that resource will increase, which will let librarians in collection development know that the resource is being used (because when resources have low usage statistics, they have a greater chance of having their subscription canceled); some of the licenses may not allow for electronic reuse in learning management systems, like the LMS; and if you provide citations (with no links), students will better learn how to search and navigate the library databases for the specified resources.


Open Oregon Video: Library Resources as Course Materials


Digitized Works (Caution- Mixed Copyright)

Copyright, and course use, is determined by the original material's copyrights, not the libraries' digitized item.  These items will vary and may be in the public domain, creative commons licensed, open access licensed, undetermined, or under full copyright protection.  Please contact the local library to get assistance in determining use rights if you are uncertain.

Content in this area is most likely okay to use for coursework; however, there is not a clear license.  The content should have no access barriers and must be free to use.  Content licenses, statements, and terms of agreements should be read thoroughly to understand what is permitted. With this content it is advised that faculty link out to this content and not embed or re-mix into their course/work.

If you are only having students use the materials in the physical class room section or within the LMS you may be able to use exemptions allowed by U.S. law Sections 110(1) or 110(2).  However, if you expect students to use the material outside of the active classroom/lecture you should determine if you have a fair use exemption (Section 107) instead. If you feel the documented evaluation of your use is fair then you may be able to use the content, so long as it is a legal copy.  When the environment, such as where the materials will be made available, changes or the context of why you are sharing the materials changes (i.e. the first factor of fair use or the purpose of your use), your use must then be re-evaluated. If you decide to make copyrighted materials available publicly online rather than only available to students officially enrolled in the course (e.g. through Canvas), then you will need to evaluate if this use is a fair use. (Please note, case law favors plaintiffs with proven or potential market impact.)  

Please note that all exemptions in the law need to be determined each time the content is reviewed or curated.  We advise that faculty re-evaluate their exemptions at least once per year.  New content is falling into the public domain every year or being created in an openly licensed way everyday.   

Fair Use Evaluator This tool helps you make a fair use evaluation and provides a PDF document of your evaluation for your records.
Summaries of Fair Use Cases: Understanding previous fair use cases will help you in understanding this principle.
The Four Factors of Fair Use: outlines the four factors and gives examples about what is and is not in favor of fair use.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use from the Association of Research Libraries

If necessary, request permission or purchase a license through a collective rights agency to use the item; it's not very common for an individual faculty member to purchase a license for use of a copyrighted work in the classroom. Faculty members in music, drama, and dance may be familiar with purchasing specific public performance licenses.

Model Permission Letters can be used to ask permission before posting content, from Dr. Kenneth D. Crews (formerly of Columbia University)