#GoOpenVA Administrator
Professional Learning
Material Type:
Graduate / Professional
#goopenva, Copyright, Creative Commons, Oer, PD, VDOE
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
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Education Standards

For Creators: Summary of What You Need to Know about Creative Commons, Copyright, and OER

For Creators: Summary of What You Need to Know about Creative Commons, Copyright, and OER


A summary of the key things every creator needs to know about how to ensure  their materials are truly openly licensed and that they don't run afoul of copyright law.

Openly-licensed resources (OER) on #GoOpenVA are ALWAYS licensed so that teachers can edit the resources and then re-share with other teachers.  This is to help teachers grow in their practice and learn from each other.


Make sure your own resources are “clean”

  • DO NOT embed (copy-and-paste or add as attachments) copyrighted images or resources in your resource
  1. Common Mistake: Resources that you can download free, and which say you can use them in your classroom, do NOT usually allow you to provide them to other teachers on a network. You cannot share these on #GoOpenVA.
  2. Common Mistake: Materials may have a CC license indicated but if it includes the code ‘ND’ it is NOT truly openly licensed. ND means that you cannot make derivatives (or edits) of the material.  Look for one of the Creative Commons licenses listed in the chart below.
  3. Common Mistake: Downloading images from a general search without checking to see if they are properly openly-licensed (it is illegal to use copyrighted materials in your work that you share on a network—Fair Use laws do not apply)
  • DO include attribution information for any openly-licensed resources you use—who created this to begin with (if it wasn’t you).  Attribution can be simple, such as stating (for example “Resource credit:  Library of Congress” and add a hyperlink to the actual resource)
  • DO use some of the special web sites and search engines devoted to helping you find openly licensed images, clip art, video, music, and other objects.  See Links to Resources for Creators


What do you do to include copyrighted resources, like photos or videos? (please see the next question for why you can’t link to just any copyrighted resource)

When you do provide a link to a non-OER (such as PBS Media), please include some informational text before you link to them in your lesson. This should alert your audience to the fact that this is not included in the Creative Commons license that covers your lesson plan in general.  Suggested ways to express this:

  1. Use the following video, which is not openly licensed and may not be edited:
  2. I like to use this tool for student planning, but be aware that this is not openly licensed and must be used ‘as is’:
  3. Although the following in not openly-licensed, you may find it to be useful resource for some of your students to use—just remember you can’t edit it:


You can’t link to anything and everything on the Internet

  • Do NOT link to a site that is subscription based (i.e., that people have to pay for). Be aware that sometimes your division has paid a subscription fee for a resource that you have access to for free, but which would cost other teachers.
  • Do NOT link to a commercial site selling resources, such as Teachers Pay Teachers or Amazon Digital Educational Resources. (Hint: Many times freebies are given out to move traffic to a commercial site selling other resources. Do not let yourself be used.)
  • Do NOT link to any site that requires teachers to log in.  This is an annoyance for your fellow educators.  If the site has really good educational resources and you want to recommend them as a Provider for #GoOpenVA, please contact the Administration at


How to tell if a resource you found is © or CC?

  • If at a website, look for a link (usually at bottom of page) for COPYRIGHT or TERMS OF USE (TOU). Sometimes the copyright statement is quite buried or on a “mother” site, and requires much clicking.
  1. If it says they are openly licensed but also say that you cannot modify or edit the materials in any way, it is NOT OER.  It is actually traditionally copyrighted even if they use the CC version of the traditional copyright (CC BY NC ND).
  2. Beware of those who only say they support “Fair Use.” Basically, they are pushing all liability to the user (you).  Fair Use requires a judgement call on the part of the user which can be disputed in court by the copyright owner.  When at all possible don’t rely on Fair Use (which also doesn’t support many modern digital uses of materials).
  3. Watch out for statements that resources can’t be shared digitally.  There are fewer of those these days but they are still around.
  • Look at individual documents/images/etc. (if they are available) to see if these are marked.
  • Use CONTACT to email the site to ask.
  • Any site having no copyright notice must be assumed to be copyrighted (that is the default). 
  • You must also assume any old handout you have with no information on it is also copyrighted and you may not scan it to be used in your lesson.


Licensing your own materials:

It means that, as a contributor, you have to make sure that your material is openly-licensed with one of the following Creative Commons licenses:

Creative Commons license code

What this means:

CC 00

Your resource is public domain and you do not claim any of your copyrights


Anyone can use your resource as they need but they do need to attribute you as the original creator


Anyone can use your resource as long as they are selling it (or making money from it), and they do need to attribute you as the original creator


Anyone can use your resource as they need but they do need to attribute you as the original creator and they must share it with the exact same license (CC BY SA)


To create an image you can use in your own materials (you only need to add it at the end of the document, not every page), you can follow the directions here:



For More Information:

A Beginner’s Guide To Copyright And Creative Commons (Simple Explanation For Teachers And Students) (shorter)


The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons (longer)




This document is CC BY NC by the Virginia Department of Education, 2021