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Frequently asked IP (Intellectual Property) and legal questions

Why do I have to agree to your license before I can publish my work?
Our goal is to provide and maintain a commons where individuals and communities worldwide can create and freely share knowledge. The Creative Commons Attribution license that you and every author must agree to enables the content to be as reusable as possible. All the content is accessible to anyone without restriction and any author can use that content, share it with others, or create a derivative work that is customized and personalized for their context.
The license also reduces everyone's risk, because it clarifies what the legal uses of the materials are. Without a license, everyone is forced to assume that the full protection of copyright law applies to your work, even if you intend to share it, or wanted it to be in the public domain. The license makes clear to lawyers and to other readers that this is your intention.
Why should I make my work available under a Creative Commons Attribution license, instead of publishing it with the full protection of copyright law?
There are several reasons. You might like the idea of others building upon your work, or the notion of contributing to an intellectual commons. As the community grows, you and other authors will have the satisfaction of helping develop new ways to collaborate. Another reason is that you may want your writings to be copied and shared, so your ideas can spread around the world. A young author may want to encourage the unrestrained dissemination of his or her works to help build a reputation. An established author might post samples of his or her work to create an interest in works that are outside of our repository. The Creative Commons license can help you implement such strategies while you retain the ultimate control of your copyright.
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is a non-profit corporation that promotes the creative licensing and re-using of intellectual works. To quote from their Web site: “Creative Commons is a new system, built within current copyright law, that allows you to share your creations with others and use music, movies, images, and text online that’s been marked with a Creative Commons license.”
Is the content copyrighted and who owns the copyright?
All material is copyrighted and the author retains the copyright of his or her material. The material is also licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Under this license the author gives others the freedom to copy, distribute, and display the work, and to make derivative works, as long as they give the original author credit. A link to a description of the Creative Commons Attribution license appears at the bottom of every content page.
How do authors license their work in the content commons?
Before you can create a module or collection, you must agree to the Creative Content Attribution license that applies to all the content.
Can I distribute or use my material elsewhere?
Yes. The Creative Commons license is "non-exclusive"-- which means that you are free to distribute your material under a different license elsewhere, publish it for profit, or transform it without endangering the version in our repository.
How do I control what changes are made to my modules?
Only persons who have the maintainer role on your module have permission to modify and publish an updated version of your module. As the author of a module, you determine who has the maintainer role on your module. The Creative Commons Attribution license does allow another person to make an adaptation of any content published in our repository. An adaptation is a derived copy of a module that is modified and published as a new module under the new author's name. Your original module is not changed and the adaptation contains a statement of attribution to you and a link to your original module.
But wait, I thought the license gave people the right to make their own adaptations of my work?
True, another author can indeed make an adaptation of your work according to the license. However, if you determine that someone has created an adaptation that is incorrect, or contradictory with your own, or worse, is defamatory or otherwise offensive, the license gives you the legal right to ask that person to remove your name from the module -- but not to demand that he or she change it as you wish. One way to avoid creation of such adaptations is to invite these other authors into your workgroup and develop a dialog with them as collaborators or co-authors.
What prevents some dishonest person from stealing my works and claiming it as theirs?
Nothing except the copyright law. The Creative Commons license is based on existing copyright law and your works have the same legal protections and legal standing as a copyrighted work that is published outside of our repository. You may actually run less risk using our repository than simply putting your work on your own Web page, because the license is clearly visible and clearly explains the uses people may legally make of your work. Strictly speaking, fraud and plagiarism are not the subject of copyright law, but copyright law is a good first defense.
Can people make money off of my work?
It is possible, but to be effective at all the license we use must allow some "commercial" uses. Consider the situation in which a printing service, such as FedEx Kinko's℠, offers to print your work so that your students may have access to hard copies. Without a license that allows commercial use, the service could not charge a fee to recover their printing, binding, and handling costs.
That's fine, but what if some huge publisher decides to publish my work?
If a publisher wants to include your module in a book of collected materials, they have that right according to the license, but remember that they are required to list you as the author and copyright holder. Our experience also suggests that most reputable publishers would want to re-negotiate a new license with you in that case. Furthermore, if you seriously expect to receive royalties from what you write, our repository is probably not the right place for the work -- though it might be the right place to experiment with an early version, or an alternative version.
Does the Creative Commons Attribution license affect fair use rights?
No. The license includes the statement: "Nothing in this license is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use, first sale, or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws." Fair use, the first sale doctrine, and other such limitations apply whether a copyright holder consents to them or not.
What must I do if I want to include a portion of an author’s work in the repository in a work I am creating outside of the repository?
You must give attribution to the portion of the original author’s work that you include outside of our repository. This attribution is as simple as clearly naming the original author and identifying the portion of his or her work you are using. In addition you must retain the copyright notice and provide the URI of the original work.
What must I do if I want to include another author’s module in a collection that I am building?
Simply add the module to your collection with the Collection Composer tool. Our software automatically includes the name of the original author in your collection, giving him or her the attribution that is required by the Creative Commons license.
Can I include material in my modules that was originally published outside of the repository and copyrighted?
This simple question raises some complex legal points. It can best be answered by the copyright holder or an intellectual property attorney. We can tell you that any content you put into our repository is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, which means anything you use directly in your content must to be legally publishable under that license. The University of Texas System has a Copyright Crash Course and a Copyright Tutorial that can provide you with general information about copyright and reuse of copyrighted material. If you do obtain permission to use copyrighted material in your modules, we recommend that you include a note with the material that indicates who holds the copyright on the material.
Does "fair use" enable me to use copyrighted material in my modules?
Maybe yes, maybe no. There are many factors to consider before you can claim "fair use" for your reuse of copyrighted material. This is another question that can best be answered by the copyright holder or an intellectual property attorney.
What legal standing does the Creative Commons license have outside of the United States?
The Creative Commons license was crafted to be enforceable in as many jurisdictions as possible. That said, Creative Commons cannot account for every last nuance in the world's various copyright laws, at their current level of resources. The Creative Commons license does contain "severability" clauses -- meaning that, if a certain provision is found to be unenforceable in a certain place, that provision and only that provision drops out of the license, leaving the rest of the agreement intact.
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