Licensing Your Open Textbook

New open textbooks created at MacEwan should be licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows for reuse and adaptation by others (CC BY, CC BY-NC, CC BY-SA, or CC BY-NC-SA). In accordance, all authors and creators retain the copyright to their original contributions while granting one of the aforementioned licenses to their content.

Information about licensing should be added to the Copyright License section of the Book Info section of PressBooks. This information will then appear as the footer on each page of the online version.

Licensing an Adaptation

If you are adapting an existing open textbook, your additions can be released with a Creative Commons license of your choosing that allows for reuse and adaptation (as noted above), but the rest of the book must clearly indicate the license of the original book.

There is, however, an exception to this. If the textbook you are adapting has a Share-Alike license attached to it, you can only release the book with the same license as the original. The Share-Alike clause means that you must use the exact same license that was used in the original for ANY adaptation.

Where to Include License Information

After selecting a copyright license in the Book Info section of Pressbooks for the work as a whole, the copyright notice included in the footer of each chapter in the online version will state the Creative Commons license you have assigned to the work along with “except where otherwise noted.” Therefore, be sure to note where other licenses apply as appropriate.

License information should be noted in a few places in the book.

  1. In the preface of the book there should be a statement that makes it clear that the book is a derivative of an original textbook.
  2. Individual chapters can be covered under a separate license, if needed, by selecting this license from the Chapter Copyright License (overrides book license on this page) section at the bottom of the page for editing each chapter.
  3. There should also be a list of what changes were made so readers know exactly what parts are new and what parts are from the original source.

As an example, in the preface of the book, you could say:

This version of Collaborative Statistics is a modified version of Collaborative Statistics by <author’s name>. Changes to the original version of the book are listed at <url to a chapter summarizing changes>. The original version of this book was released under a <insert license here> and is copyright by <if original has copyright include that here>. The changes to this book listed on <insert location of summary of changes> are released under a CC-BY license and are copyright by <authors name>. You are free to use, modify or adapt any of this material providing the terms of the Creative Commons licenses are adhered to.

Remember to include a summary of the substantial changes you made to the textbook. You don’t have to note small things, like fixing spelling mistakes or minor stylistic changes. Concentrate on acknowledging substantial changes. An example might look like:

The modifications from the original textbook include:

  • A new chapter (chapter 4) was added covering Feminist Theory
  • Chapter 2 was rewritten to remove references to American data and replaced with Canadian data
  • The topic “Unusual Behaviour” in Chapter 8 was modified to remove references to dyslexia

Don’t Make It Too Complicated

Track all your changes within reason. If you are making a major revision and you try to be exhaustive with your attributions, the task can quickly become onerous. Creative Commons has a guide called Best Practices for Attribution, which says that while you should try to attribute as clearly as possible, attribution should not be too complicated. Since the goal of many Creative Commons licences is to make remixing and reusing of content easier, if you are heavily adapting content the expectation is that you make a “reasonable” effort to document the origin of the material. Don’t sweat it if you make more general attributions, as long as all your sources end up on your reference list at the end! You can also use a traditional academic mode of citation if you find that easier.

Content adapted by Ryerson University from “Licensing for a Newly Created Open Textbook” from the B.C. Open Textbook Authoring Guide (archived version) and “Licensing an Adaptation” from the BC Open Textbook Adaptation Guide with addition of new section, “Don’t make it too complicated,” each licensed under CC-BY 4.0.


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MacEwan Open Textbook Authoring Guide Copyright © 2019 by MacEwan University Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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