The latest Code of Best Practices in Fair Use helps people who make Open Educational Resources.
What are Open Educational Resources?
OERs are teaching materials that their creators make available without licensing. The first iteration of the swelling movement was MIT’s Open CourseWare project. Many scholars use open-access opens both to publish their research and to create texts. OER materials reduce textbook costs, which have skyrocketed over the past two decades. They allow teachers to provide up-to-date materials, tailored to their own courses. They also vastly increase the potential readership for the work. Entire college programs are now available only using EOR.
Why fair use and OER?
Fair use—the right to use copyrighted materials without permission or payment, under some circumstances—is a constant feature of OER.
Some common reasons why you might need fair use for your teaching materials:
- You’re analyzing something and want to quote from it—a book, a poem, an audio production, a movie, an architectural design, a layout, an advertisement, for example.
- You want to illustrate something—a trend (the growth of hip hop, the adoption of the VCR); a pattern (product placement in TV shows; use of the volcano experiment in middle-school science); a historical phenomenon, as emblematized by something (civil rights; the rise of radio shock jocks; quantum computing).
- You want to include some material to help your students learn the point you’re trying to make—e.g., an op-ed that incorporates an argument you’re teaching in political science; a clip from a telenovela episode for Spanish class; a database that helps them work on the same material, but with different questions.
- You want to draw from some other instructional materials—for instance, training manuals, a how-to sequence, another textbook—rather than reinventing something already well established.
The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Open Educational Resources.
Fortunately, the new Code addresses how fair use applies to all of these categories, and what the limitations on its uses are.
And there’s more. The Code also shares the findings from the research that informed the Code; a crisp, four-page backgrounder on fair use generally; a guide to Canadian fair dealing, which uses similar logic but via different means; a world-wide look at similar kinds of copyright exceptions and limitations to fair use; and some advice about copyright-adjacent issues like public domain, trademark and patents in relation to OER.
The Code and You.
Like all codes of best practices, this code will only be as useful as it is used. Kindly spread the word and share the document with anyone who hopes to make it easier and cheaper to learn, with higher quality materials.
Happy Fair Use Week!