Open Education Handbook/Intellectual Property, Rights & Licensing

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are the legal rights given to persons over creations. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to creations including musical, literary, and artistic works. Copyright is the right to control the copying and dissemination of an original work. Clarification of copyright is essential for release, use and remixing of open educational resources and for open educational practices.

IPR and copyright are important in the open education field because for others to make full use of a resource it needs to have been released under an open licence. This means that the owner/creator has agreed to allow others to use it, and indicated this through open licensing.

The verb 'to license' means to give permission while the noun 'licence' refers to that permission as well as to the document recording and representing it. Licences can be thought of as legal tools that allow certain actions. They make the materials they apply to more usable.

In some legal traditions licences are unilateral acts of permission, in others they are simply bilateral contracts dealing with rights. Usually licences state very precisely which rights are granted by whom (licensor) to whom (licensee) for how long. They often also include details on whether these rights are granted exclusively to the licensee or not and describe the territory they are to cover, which can be a specific country or worldwide.

Furthermore, licences can be based on conditions, meaning that the grant of rights they represent is only valid as long as certain conditions are met. Once these conditions are not met any more, the licence automatically also ends.

Further resources