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Open Educational Resources (OER) & the Affordable Instructional Materials (AIM) Initiative: Copyright & Fair Use

Learn more about how SUNY Erie is dedicated to helping faculty find, adopt, and adapt free or low-cost course materials to support student success.
    Questions about copyright?  Ask a Librarian!  Contact: Justin Cronise [] - OER Lead, AIM Library Liaison

Creative Commons

Open Educational Resources (OER) are either in the public domain or free to use, as indicated most often by a Creative Commons (CC) license.  In addition to two public domain licenses (CC0 and Public Domain Mark), CC offers six licenses that make works available under different conditions, or levels of "openness," which you can see in the chart below  Learn more about the different types of licenses or best practices for attribution when using CC-licensed materials.

Copyright & Fair Use

According to the US Copyright Office, "Fair Use" is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use. 

Section 107 calls for consideration of the following four factors in evaluating a question of fair use:

  • Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. 
  • Nature of the copyrighted work. 
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. 
  • Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. 

For more information, see detailed explanations from the US Copyright Office:

"Ask The Lawyer"

WNYLRC Ask The Lawyer

"Ask The Lawyer" is a collaboration between Buffalo-based intellectual property attorney Stephanie "Cole" Adams (of the Law Office of Stephanie Adams, PLLC) and the consortia of Western New York's regional libraries, Western New York Library Resources Council (WNYLRC).  

See a collection of Recently Asked Questions about:
call the library: City Library North Library South Library
716.851.1074 716.851.1273 716.851.1772