Open Licensing Compatibility

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License Compatibility

When compiling different media with different licenses together to make an open textbook, it is important to label your created work with the appropriate license.

From the OER Handbook:

"It seems only natural to assume that an OER with a Creative Commons license could be mixed with an OER with a different license. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Some licenses are incompatible with others. Probably the most prominent example is Wikipedia, which uses the GNU Free Documentation License, not being compatible with, say, WikiEducator, which uses Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike. Although the licenses are similar in intent, they are not compatible; meaning you cannot take Wikipedia material and mix it with material from WikiEducator or other sources (e.g. blogs) that are licensed with a Creative Commons license. This is because of the requirement that derivative works are released under exactly the same license as the source materials. However, it is possible to release a derivative work under a dual license, particularly where the sub-sections can be identified as discrete parts. In other words, parts of the material could be licensed with Creative Commons and part GFDL, provided the different sections are clearly defined and marked. Because of the many different types of licenses available, and all the possible combinations, it is difficult to explain every possible license incompatibility" (Wiley, 2007; Creative Commons, n.d.).

However, David Wiley has created an OER -Remix game to help you see how this works. The link is below and on the main topic page as a resource. This link will open in a new window/tab.

OER Remix - License Compatibility Practice

The following is from the Creative Commons website about license compatibility:

I’m collecting a number of different works together into one resource. Can I include Creative Commons-licensed material?

All the Creative Commons licenses allow the original work to be included in collections such as anthologies, encyclopedias and broadcasts. However, you still have to follow the license the original material is under. For example, material under any of the Creative Commons Noncommercial licenses cannot be included in a collection that is going to be used commercially. The table below will help you work out whether you can include the Creative Commons-licensed material in your collection.


Note that when you include a Creative Commons licensed work in a collection, you must keep the work under the same license. This doesn’t mean the whole collection has to be put under the Creative Commons license – just the original work.

Fair use note: CC Licenses do not change, alter, or modify fair use rights. You may still use fair use rights to incorporate CC works for any qualifying purpose.

This chart is not a substitute for obtaining your own legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or represented as legal advice.


If I use a Creative Commons-licensed work to create a new work (ie a derivative work or adaptation), which Creative Commons license can I use for my new work?

The chart below should give you some assistance in figuring out which Creative Commons license you can use on your new work. Some of our licenses just do not, as practical matter, work together.

The green boxes indicate license compatibility. That is, you may use the license indicated in the top row for your derivative work or adaptation, or for a collective work. The blank rows for the by-nc-nd and by-nd licenses indicate that derivative works or adaptations are not permitted by the license of the original work, therefore you are never allowed to re-license them.


Abbreviation Key


Fair use note: CC Licenses do not change, alter, or modify fair use rights. You may still use fair use rights to incorporate CC works for any qualifying purpose.

This chart is not a substitute for obtaining your own legal advice, nor should it be relied upon or represented as legal advice.