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Open Educational Resources (OER)

OER & Rights

Graphic depicting the spectrum of rights from copyright to Creative Commons to the public domain

"The Spectrum of Rights" is licensed by Research Outreach under a CC BY 4.0 License.

As the graphic above demonstrates, there exists a spectrum of rights ranging from copyright to Creative Commons to the public domain. With copyright, all rights are reserved and anyone seeking to reuse that material will need to obtain permission from the copyright owner. With Creative Commons, some rights are reserved as the copyright owner still owns the copyright but has selected a license that explicitly describes what reuse is permitted without permission. Items in the public domain have no rights reserved and may be used without permission.

5R Activities

OER creators make use of open licenses that enable anyone to engage in the 5 R activities.

  • Retain: the right to make, own, and control copies of the content. 
  • Reuse: the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video).
  • Revise: the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language).
  • Remix: the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new. 
  • Redistribute: the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others.

The 5 R Activities is an adaptation of Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources by David Wiley and published freely under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons are the most common open license used for OER. Six of the most common licenses include a combination of four rights: attribution, share-alike, non-commercial, and no-derivatives.

Icon Right Description
Attribution icon



Licensees may copy, distribute, display, perform and make derivative works and remixes based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits (attribution) in the manner specified by these. Since version 2.0, all Creative Commons licenses require attribution to the creator and include the BY element.
Share-alike icon



Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to ("not more restrictive than") the license that governs the original work. (See also copyleft.) Without share-alike, derivative works might be sublicensed with compatible but more restrictive license clauses, e.g. CC BY to CC BY-NC.)
Non-commercial icon



Licensees may copy, distribute, display, perform the work and make derivative works and remixes based on it only for non-commercial purposes.
Non-derivative icon



Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works and remixes based on it. Since version 4.0, derivative works are allowed but must not be shared.

See our Creative Commons and the CC Licenses guide for more information.

Understanding the 5R Activities and Creative Commons

Chart crosslisting the 5R Activities with Creative Commons Licenses

This is an adaptation by Jessica Dai of “Wileys 5Rs and Creative Commons Licensing” by Krysta McNutt, CC-BY 4.0.