5 Licences and Permissions

When You Can Use the Work of Others

This section offers an overview of what content you can include in your open resource and in what contexts. We give a brief introduction to copyright as it functions in Canada, discuss how open licences work, and then get into the options and limitations around including content that is not openly licensed. This includes guidelines around the following:

  • Linking to external sources
  • Embedding media (i.e., videos, audio)
  • Fair dealing as it applies to direct quotes and poetry
  • Getting permission to include all rights reserved content
Note that as the author of an resource, it is your responsibility to ensure that you follow all licence terms and that you do not infringe on the copyrights of others.


Copyright is the legal framework protecting the intellectual property of creative works. In Canada, copyright is defined under the Copyright Act. There are a few important things to keep in mind about copyright in Canada:

  1. Only the copyright holder has permission to distribute and adapt a work.
  2. The copyright holder is usually the author/creator of a work, but not always.
  3. Copyright protection is automatic. It is not something you have to apply for.
  4. If others want to use, share, or adapt the work, they need to get permission or a licence from the copyright holder that specifies the terms of use.

For more information, see Copyright and Open Licences in the Self-Publishing Guide.

Open Licences

Open licences are how copyright holders let the world know that they are okay with people taking, reusing, and adapting their creative works. Note that the creator maintains the copyright for their original work: the open licence simply means that they give others permission to use the work as well. These licences specify exactly what others are allowed to do with the work and in what contexts without needing to contact the copyright holder to ask permission.

As a general rule, only openly licensed content or content that is in the public domain may be included in an open resource.

If you’re not sure whether the content you want to use is openly licensed, read Resources: Only the Open in the Self-Publishing Guide.

Creative Commons Licences

CC BY licenceicon.Creative Commons licences are probably the most common open licences that you will encounter. There are seven licences in total, which come with different combinations of restrictions:

  • Attribution: This requires you to attribute (give credit to) the original creator.
  • ShareAlike: This requires you to use the same licence for any work that you create based on their original work.
  • NonCommercial: This restricts you from profiting off of their work.
  • NoDerivatives: This restricts you from making any changes to their work.

To learn more about each of the seven licences, read About CC Licences.

Other Open Licences

There are many other open licences that you may come across:

Always make sure you review the terms/licences conditions when using an open licence, especially when you are not familiar with it. Different open licences have different restrictions and requirements, so you should never assume.


One of the most common requirements of open licences is to give attribution to the original creator. See the section on Citation and Attribution for more information.

Public Domain

When copyright expires (in Canada, this is 70 years after the death of the creator), the work enters the public domain. This means that anyone is allowed to use the work without obtaining permission, but no one can own it. Some creators choose to place or “dedicate” their works to the public domain. For this, Creative Commons has created the CC0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Works in the public domain may be included in an open resource. Although they don’t legally require attribution, you should still attribute public domain and CC0 content so others using your resource know where you got that content from. See the section on Citation and Attribution for more information.

Non-Openly Licensed Content (All Rights Reserved)

Content that is not openly licensed, meaning it is “all rights reserved,” is covered by the regular terms and restrictions of copyright law. As such, it cannot be included in an open resource except under the following exceptions:

  • Linking: You may link to external websites from within your open resource.
  • Embedding: You may embed media (video, audio, etc.) that are hosted on an external site by the copyright holder within your open resource. If embedding, you will need to attribute the content (See Citation and Attribution). Note that some creators restrict embedding, in which case their resources may not be included.
  • Fair Dealing: This is an exception in the Copyright Act that allows you to use all rights reserved material for the purpose of research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting, provided that what you do with the work is “fair.” Unfortunately, the Copyright Act does not define what counts as “fair.” It is a subjective evaluation based on a number of factors (how much is used, how many copies, commercial/non-commercial, etc). For more information on how you might use fair dealing to incorporate all rights reserved content into your OER, see the Code of Best Practices in Fair Dealing for Open Educational Resources [PDF].

BCcampus Fair Dealing Policy

Here are the limits on how much all rights reserved content you may include in an open resource funded by BCcampus without needing to ask permission from the copyright holder:

  • Poetry: No more than 5% of a poem.
  • Text (published and unpublished): Block quotes cannot exceed 200 words. You cannot quote more than 500 words from one resource in total.

Ensure that quoted content is cited according to the citation style you have chosen (see Citation and Attribution). If you want to exceed any of these limits (or include non-text content from an all rights reserved resource), you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holder.

Because open resources are publicly available on the internet, our fair dealing policy was informed by the policies of Canadian university presses.[1] Note that fair dealing is interpreted much more liberally for instructors wanting to share content with their students within a learning management system (LMS).

Permission to Include All Rights Reserved Content in an Open Resource

We strongly discourage including all rights reserved content in open resources. This is because it makes it difficult for people to use and adapt the resource for their own purposes. Each person would have to get their own permission to adapt the content. As much as possible, use existing open content or create new content.

If this is not possible, please connect with your project manager and the OER Production Team to discuss the possibility of obtaining permission to include the content.

Paid Stock-Images

Stock images where you have to pay for a licence should not be included in an OER. Wherever possible, use existing open content or create your own. This will ensure that people who adapt the resource in the future will be able to use that content as well.

If that is not possible, connect with your project manager and the OER Production Team and we will see if we can figure something out.



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Getting Started: OER Publishing at BCcampus Copyright © 2021 by BCcampus OER Production Team is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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