In week 2 of a course I am navigating at my own procrastinator’s pace we have been asked to consider Copyright, the Public Domain and the Commons. I am actually really excited to delve into this week’s content because it is a critical think to understand as a content creator. Lawyers, Librarians and Educators please jump in and comment on this post to help me get my head around this issue.


I live in Canada. Since the MOOC I am taking says that laws are specific to where you live I decided to visit the Government of Canada’s guide to copyright. If I am interpreting it correctly the Copyright Act “protects” materials that I produce (written work, sound recordings, videos etc.) since I am a Canadian citizen for 50 years after I die. Interestingly, “copyright exists automatically when an original work or other subject-matter is created, provided the conditions set out in the Copyright Act have been met.” These conditions, from what I can tell, are tat the work is original and produced in Canada (or another treaty country). There is an optional registration process explained on that page for those who are interested. From what I can tell Canadian law is a lot like what is explained in the video below.

As our course instructors point out, copyright in an educational context is complicated. Much of the discussion over intellectual property and copyright is yet to be settled in the current discussions between faculty and their employers. Individual institutions may also have policies on intellectual property. That may be a topic deserving of further exploration in the upcoming months. Educators need to be careful not to share content that they do not actually own.

To complicate things further, “Fair use” in Canada is a topic that is actually going through some clarification in the courts, but as I understand it that does not apply to public dissemination, a core component of open education. My librarian would have a lot to say about that topic. Recently, York University lost a legal battle over this issue (Read more here). Personally, I have avoided any potential “fair use” in my classroom because I am fuzzy on the boundaries of such laws. If you want to show a movie in class, play music or even post sections of a book make sure you run that by your local librarian expert before you get you and your institution sued. Or, better yet, move towards open educational resources so you don’t need to worry about getting sued.

Copyright by Default 

Copyright is assigned by default to creative works. Instead of opting-in to copyright, creators who want to share openly need to opt out. Take a look at what I just found hidden under the advanced options on my YouTube channel.

YouTube Copyright

YouTube Copyright

By default my videos are licensed under a Standard YouTube License. I didn’t read through all of section 6, but I did notice that “you retain all of your ownership rights in your Content.” Now I know why I get emails asking if educators can use my videos in their courses. I always say yes, of course, it is on YouTube, that means it can be used right … maybe. I thought that was a given when I posted videos online, but I guess the default is not that way. I am still a little fuzzy on this point since it is quite common for educators to give students links to YouTube videos to watch before/after/during classes. Maybe embedding a video in the course is different.

Gellinger / Pixabay

I want my videos to be used for education. What I need to wrap my head around is the consequences of moving to a creative commons license instead of the default license. Will I be misinterpreted when people remove the context in a remix of my video (one of the fears expressed by a colleague)? What about plagiarism? I have actually found one of my videos, unchanged, uploaded to a different channel without attribution in the past. Despite my commitment to openness, that kind of bothered me.


Creative Commons 

Here is a helpful video explaining Creative Commons licensing. Creative Commons makes it easy for creators to grant permissions to others to share and use content they create.


Reach more people. That is a huge benefit of creative commons licensing. Generally speaking, I would like my videos and other creative works to be revised, remixed, reused and redistributed like Wiley and Green (2012) discuss. However, a lot of work goes into the creation of YouTube videos. As a creator I want to be credited (cited) for that work.

There are a lot of creative commons licensing options. It gets a little confusing. YouTube has simplified things for my by offering me only two options – Standard or Creative Commons. The Creative Commons license that YouTube allows creators to select is a CC BY license (read more here). Conveniently, I think that is the one I want.

Today I learned that it layers on top of Copyright and allows a creator to say what others can do with their work. If someone uses a video but doesn’t meet the terms set by the creator they can no longer use the work. Neat. I am just not clear on how that will be enforced on YouTube. I am fine with a remix of my videos – I just want to be cited. I also don’t want a pure copycat. Can I still make a copyright claim against someone who downloads a video of mine, doesn’t edit it at all, and re-uploads it without citing me?

Creative Commons goes both ways. 

Guess what – I have also discovered the potential to use other videos in my work. YAY! Now that I know about this feature of YouTube I might be able to cut down some of my own video production costs. I pay yearly for a lot of the images you see in my videos. The only problem is that I don’t like the YouTube video editor. This nifty website helps you find content licensed under creative commons licensing that I can download, edit and use! Awesome … I am going to add that to my to-try list.


Experimentation time

I am working on a video about Open Educational Resources – it would only make sense to license that video using creative commons and test out this new approach.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit

1 Comment

What is Open Education #OpenEdMOOC – Insights from Nurse Killam · February 5, 2018 at 10:58 am

[…] educational resources are licensed under creative commons licenses (or something similar) in order to decrease barriers for users to access and use them. David […]

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