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MOOC Resources for Educators: Copyright

A guide to locating and using resources for the teaching of MOOCs

Creative Commons

Creative Commons licences facilitate sharing and reuse of creative content. These licences provide a standardised way to give the public permission to share and use creative work — subject to conditions of the author's choice. No matter which licence is used, you must always attribute the creator of the material.

The following links explain the 6 licence types and the symbols to look out for on CC material.

MOOCs and Copyright

Contact Brett McCarthy, Manager, Copyright & Information Policy, University Library ( or 8627 4376) for advice on copyright, licensing, open access and Creative Commons.

The openness of the MOOC environment provides multiple challenges in terms of copyright and licensing however many 3rd party copyright resources can be accessed directly by students, and by members of the public, without any copying taking place and therefore without infringing copyright. Open access (“OA”) means unrestricted online access[1] to scholarly journal articles, research results, textbooks, monographs and other media. Although free, open access resources are usually subject to copyright or other specific terms and conditions of use. In open and on-campus eLearning environments (including MOOCs), it is considered best practice to link directly to an open access resource.

In addition to open access, Creative Commons[2] licensing offers six copyright licences that provide a standard way for copyright owners to change their copyright terms and conditions from the default “all rights reserved” to the more flexible “some rights reserved”. The Creative Commons licences are not an alternative to copyright, but instead work within copyright law to provide users with a clear set of non-exclusive rights and permissions. The six licences range from a very open and flexible Creative Commons Attribution licence[3] (CC-BY) to a rather restrictive Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives[4] (CC-BY-NC-ND) licence. Most Creative Commons licensed works can be used within, or linked to MOOCs without infringing copyright.>

Getting Started: Points to consider when creating a MOOC

The openness of the MOOC environment requires thinking differently about how to identify, source and deliver teaching materials. Below are some practical points to consider when creating content for a MOOC:

- Create new content: You can use any original or University of Sydney-owned content in a MOOC.

- Identify key resources as early as possible: Identify those resources that are essential to your MOOC. Contact the Senior Manager, Copyright and Information Policy (Kate Stanton via email: or phone: x12087) early to discuss your key resources, identify copyright owners and get the permissions process underway (see point 3).

- Seek permission as early as possible: Obtaining permission to use copyright works in a MOOC is possible but can be time consuming. For example, when developing their first suite of MOOCs, the University of Melbourne Copyright Office checked approximately 2000 items for copyright compliance. In addition to copyright queries, Academics from the University of Melbourne made approximately 123 formal requests to copyright owners to use copyright content within Coursera, and were able to secure permission for almost 95% of these requests[5].

- Leverage open access (OA) journals and manuscripts: Seek out open access alternatives to subscription-only books and journal articles and link them to your MOOC as further readings. If you want to use your own scholarly publications in a MOOC, consider archiving an “accepted manuscript” version of your work in the University’s open access repository (Sydney eScholarship), then use the persistent link (e.g. to provide your students with access to the open access version of the article. The University Library can help identify open access resources or provide advice on open access archiving options.

- Seek out Creative Commons licensed materials: Creative Commons licences grant certain permissions to users, authorising them to make use of 3rd party copyright material in specific ways. The Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence allows users to download, copy, modify, upload, remix, re-publish, translate, and even sell licensed works for a profit - as long as the author is appropriately attributed for their original work. For these reasons, Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licensed resources can be used in many ways within the MOOCs environment. Most other Creative Commons licensed resources are also suitable for use in MOOCs, as long as the specific terms and conditions of use are met.

- Link to resources: In general, linking to publicly accessible content from a MOOC is acceptable and will not infringe copyright. However, unless an item carries a Creative Commons licence or similar terms and conditions, downloading, remixing or re-posting items within the MOOC platform without gaining permission from the rights owner will most likely infringe copyright.

- Know who to contact for advice: Contact the Manager, Copyright & Information Policy, University Library (Brett McCarthy, or 8627 4376) for advice on copyright, licensing, open access and Creative Commons.


[1] ‘Open Access’ Wikipedia, 23 March 2015,  

[2] See

[3] See  

[4] See 

[5] A. Bovel, ‘MOOCs and the Copyright Office’, UniMelb Copyright Blog, 11 October 2013,