Identify Existing Resources

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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. While the Fair Dealing exception allows the use of copyrighted and other third party materials in the classroom, these exceptions do not apply when publishing an open textbook.

Yellow Download.png Downloadable Templates

Use the Attribution Tracking Template [Word] for tracking information needed to properly attribute the media items you use (according to the TASL best practices for attribution).

Licenses and Permissions

If you are looking for content to add to your textbook, 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 textbook. However, this process limits how others can use or reuse that material, meaning that your textbook 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.

Using and Finding Third Party Materials


When adopting 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. The way that copyright works means that by default any work that is "fixed" (writes it down, records it, etc.) has automatic copyright. Therefore, assume that everything that you come across is protected by copyright. Because you can't rely on the Fair Dealing exceptions in the way that educators usually can, you will need to look for the rights and permissions information about the piece that you want to use. Rights and permissions outline how a work can be used, including produced, copied, performed, published, adapted, translated or telecommunicated.

Determining Copyright Rights and Permissions
  • The First Level Analysis Flowchart takes you through the steps of determining if a work can be uploaded to a Learning Management System (LMS, e.g. Canvas, Entrada, Connect, MEDICOL) without first seeking permission.
  • The Digital Licenses Flowchart picks up where the First Level Analysis leaves off, guiding you through the specifics of the reuse of digital works in a learning environment.
  • The Digital Copyright Slider is tool that can be used to establish if works first published in the U.S. are still protected by copyright (in the U.S.) or in the public domain.

Creative Commons (CC)

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization whose mandate is to make it easier for creators to share their work and/or build upon the works of others consistent with the rules of copyright. They have created standard, easy to use and understand copyright licenses that anybody can apply to their work to allow others to share, remix, or use the work without having to contact the copyright owner to ask for permission. There are several Creative Commons licenses, each with a different level of use restrictions.

Public Domain

Public Domain does not refer to just anything found publicly online; just because something is on the internet does not mean that it is "in the public domain." The standard copyright term in Canada is until the author's death plus an additional fifty years. For more information, visit Copyright @ UBC.

From Stanford University Library's Welcome to the 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.

An important wrinkle to understand about public domain material is that, while each work belongs to the public, collections of public domain works may be protected by copyright. If, for example, someone has collected public domain images in a book or on a website, the collection as a whole may be protectable even though individual images are not. You are free to copy and use individual images but copying and distributing the complete collection may infringe what is known as the “collective works” copyright. Collections of public domain material will be protected if the person who created it has used creativity in the choices and organization of the public domain material. This usually involves some unique selection process, for example, a poetry scholar compiling a book—The Greatest Poems of e.e. cummings.

Public Domain in Canada

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. To learn more about public domain, go to the UBC Copyright website.


In creating open educational resources, the most commonly used third party materials are photos and images. Rather than doing a copyright check at the end of your project, save yourself some time by choosing openly licensed content during the initial creation of your textbook. There are many different places where you can search for Open images to use in your textbook. Additionally, Google Image Search allows you to filter results by license if you click on Tools and then Usage Rights.

When gathering photos, keep track of attribution information to make creating front and back matter pages easier.


From Creative Commons Legal Music For Videos:

Can I use any song with a CC license on it?
Almost — you need to make sure that what you want to do with the music is OK under the terms of the particular Creative Commons license it’s under. CC-licensed music isn’t free for all uses, only some — so make sure to check out the terms (you can find these by clicking on each song’s license icon).
Most importantly, you need to use music that is not licensed under a No Derivative Works license. This means that the musician doesn’t want you to change, transform, or make a derivative work using their music. Under CC licenses, synching the music to images amounts to transforming the music, so you can’t legally use a song under a CC No Derivative Works license in your video.

Also, make sure to properly credit the musician and the track, as well as express the CC license the track is under.


The easiest way to make sure that you are using open videos is to search specifically for them. For example, you can filter your Youtube search to include videos with a Creative Commons license or search within specific open educational resource repositories. Before using a video, you need to review the content for potential infringement. Similar to the Copyright Office guidelines on Using Videos in the Classroom, you are free to include online streaming videos provided that the videos satisfy the following criteria:

  • You do not break or circumvent a Digital Lock to access or obtain a copy of the work.
  • There is no clear and visible notice on the website or on the work itself that prohibits the use or reproduction of the work (more than just a copyright symbol).
  • The website is not questionable, infringing or clearly using the works without the copyright owner’s consent.
  • You identify the source of the work and, if available and applicable, the author, performer, maker or broadcaster of the work.

This means if the content is infringing on copyright (e.g. A YouTube user has uploaded the movie, "The Conjuring") you cannot include that video. If you cannot find the "Terms of Use" or "License" for an item, contact the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office for assistance. When in doubt, provide a link to the original video instead of embedding it directly into the textbook.

Adaption Statements