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Attribution and OER

There are several things you need to know in order to properly credit open materials that you share. Because OER is intended to be shared widely, including publicly, you must attribute the material you redistribute (share) in order to comply with the Creative Commons license terms. In fact, this is a term of the license.

Distributing Content & Crediting Authors

A major affordance of using Creative Commons licensed learning materials in teaching is the ability to redistribute (share) materials more easily and stably with students.

Tips for Sharing Content

  • What content is OK to post on a course site? 
    Materials can be posted to a public website (such as the Brooklyn College OER site Item opens in new tab/window. if:
    • The copyright holder of the material grants permission (via a Creative Commons license or written consent) or you are the copyright holder of the material
    • The material is in the public domain
    • The material is made available by linking to a version made publicly accessible from the copyright holder
  • What if the learning material has no license displayed on it?
    You must assume it is under full copyright and seek permission from the right’s holder Item opens in new tab/window. in order to use it. Alternatively, find a C.C. licensed version. 
  • When in doubt, link out! 
    If a material is freely available online (but is not public domain or C.C. licensed), always provide a link to that material to avoid copyright violation.

The Process of Attributing Authors

Just as you cite and provide references in your scholarship, attribution acknowledges / credits the original creator of the learning material you share with students. Each Creative Commons license requires attribution (CC BY), so that original authorship is given every time the work is shared / redistributed. 

Attribution is a requirement when you redistribute a material as a PDF or other applicable file type (as opposed to linking out to the material on the web). The added affordance of being able to save or ‘retain’ a copy of the material and redistribute it makes it that much more stable for long-term use.

Elements of a good attribution:

A good rule of thumb is to use the acronym TASL, which stands for Title, Author, Source, License.

  1. Title
  2. Author – link to author profile / page, if possible
  3. Source – link to original source, preferably a stable link, if possible
  4. License – link to license deed
Nymphaea Tetragona
Attribution: “Nymphaea tetragona (Water Lily)” by EvaK is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5.

When you attribute the author you ensure:

  • The intellectual property rights of the author are preserved (all CC BY licenses require you to attribute the author to be in compliance with the license…emphasis on the BY!)
  • The provenance of the work is documented – this is fundamental to tracing the authority and relevancy of your course materials
  • Clear indication of exactly how the resource can be shared or customized based on the provisions of the CC license (for ex., Does the license allow commercial or non-commercial use?)
  • Any non-OER materials can be distinguished from CC licensed materials (Non-OER might be library subscribed material or newspaper articles) so as not to confuse or misrepresent information to potential adopters

Tools to help you attribute

This is a tool to help you build attributions. Select the About box to learn more. As you fill out the form, the app automatically generates the attribution for you.

Attribution Best Practice readings


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