The Difference Between Copyright & Licensing



Creative Commons recommends that content creators—whether it be the state, district, school, or teacher—retain the copyrights for all content created and apply a CC license to it so that reuse, revision and redistribution are defined up front.


Even though most digital content can be easily copied and shared, users still need to be concerned with copyright and licensing. The approach to resolving copyright and licensing of digital content depends on whether the content comes from a for-profit entity, such as a publishing company; a public entity, such as a state board of education; an individual educator working for the “common good”; or some other source. Considerations about copyright (or ownership) and licensing (or sharing) need to be top of mind from the beginning of the acquisition process.

The areas to consider in evaluating digital content from the perspective of copyright and licensing are these:

  • IP rights. Are the intellectual property (IP) rights of individual digital content objects clearly indicated on the resources? Can users search digital content resources by IP license?
  • Restrictions on customization. Are there any restrictions on how the content can be combined with the content of other providers, including at the section, lesson or unit levels? Is the use of a custom platform or website required to access the content or can access be provided via a school’s platform of choice?
  • Restrictions on usage. Are there restrictions on the redistribution and access to the content, for instance, by students, parents, or siblings at home—or by students and teachers in other schools or districts?
  • Duration of licensing. Once the content is acquired, does the school or district retain the rights to use it in perpetuity or only upon payment of ongoing fees?

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