How‑to: open license teaching materials


This posting covers the open licensing of teaching materials and of documents and content more generally.

Normally a Creative Commons CC‑BY‑4.0 attribution license should be used unless other considerations apply. This license allows others to share and adapt and also include the content in commercial products. The only requirement is that all previous contributors be acknowledged (the “BY” qualifier). The share‑alike variant is the Creative Commons CC‑BY‑SA‑4.0 license (additionally the “SA” qualifier) that essentially means the same license must be retained in the case of the original work or reapplied in the case of derivative works.

The CC‑BY‑4.0 license is also generally recommended for data, so that any data or other numerical information embedded in a document can extracted and used under suitable terms too.

Creative Commons CC-BY-4.0 specifics

The following information relates directly to the Creative Commons CC‑BY‑4.0 license.


A license notice can be added to the “printed” material as follows:

That same information can often be added as file metadata (using the PDF and XMP protocols) by filling in the document properties. Alternatively, that information can be written in manually using the command‑line ExifTool utility.


Specifically, Creative Commons advise that you are free to:

Use case Permissions
Share copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
Adapt remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially

Under to following terms:

Term Explanation
Attribution You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use
No additional restrictions You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits

And with the following notices:

You do not have to comply with the license for elements of the material in the public domain or where your use is permitted by an applicable exception or limitation
No warranties are given. The license may not give you all of the permissions necessary for your intended use. For example, other rights such as publicity, privacy, or moral rights may limit how you use the material.

It is important to apply version 4.0 and not some earlier version. Version 4.0 was the first release to deal properly with intellectual property law in relation to data and databases. Version 4.0 is also international and does not require dedicated ports for different legal jurisdictions.

Useful links

Text and images licensed under CC BY 4.0Data licensed under CC0 1.0Code licensed under MITSite terms of serviceJump to openmod forum.