If you need to use items that are not openly licensed, and you plan to widely share your course beyond your classroom or the learning management system, it is best practice to obtain permission from the author or copyright holder for the specific use that you intend. It is also possible to determine whether your use without permission would be fair use, and a librarian can help you do this analysis.

The good news is that many educators who post their work online want it to be reused and may be receptive to a request that they add an open license to their copyright statement so that anyone else can reuse their work without asking permission first in the future.

Authors may also choose to retain all-rights-reserved copyright to their work, or leave in place a more restrictive open license, while giving you specific permission to reuse their content under a less restrictive open license. More restrictively-licensed or “all rights reserved” content can be used for images, excerpts, and other content that can be used as-is and attributed separately from the rest of the work. If you plan to blend the content with your own content or other openly licensed content, you will need to consider license compatibility.

The overall goal is to consider downstream users of your course. Will future instructors be able to make the same use of the copyrighted content if they decide to reuse your materials, or will they have to hunt down a replacement that is open or in the public domain before they can adopt your course? Try to make things simple for the next person.

Below is a sample permission request email.

Dear Dr. Dumbledore,

I am a faculty member with the ____ project. The purpose of this project is to design openly licensed Science and Technology courses that can be taught face-to-face, hybrid and/or online. These courses will be freely available on the internet for anyone to copy, modify and use under a CC BY 4.0 Creative Commons license.

I am creating a course entitled “Advanced Potions” and I would like to use a post from your blog entitled “Why polyjuice potion?” from February 2005.

I am seeking your permission to redistribute this material as part of our course, which will be shared with a CC BY 4.0 Creative Commons license. You will maintain your copyright and we will attribute your work to its original source on your blog, along with a note about your copyright/license permissions. Ideally, we would like to distribute your material, along with the rest of the course, under a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license. However, we can also make a note that the material is under a different open license or under "All Rights Reserved" copyright and used with permission, if that's your preference.

Please contact me at xxxx@hogwarts.edu or by telephone at 253-xxx-xxxx with information about this request. Thank you for your time and attention.

Your name

Content on this page was adapted from "Module 8: Sharing OER" by Boyoung Chae, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, licensed under CC BY 4.0.