Limitations and Exceptions to Copyright

Limitations and Exceptions to Copyright:

  • The licenses and public domain options do have a non-competition rule with trademark and patent rights; these must be managed separately.
  • One limitation of Creative Commons Licenses is that they only work within the scope of copyright law.
  • An exception is if you are working under fair use or provisions for accessibility, these terms would not apply.
  • A second exception is software. This is because there are many free and open source software licenses that are better; they were built specifically as software licenses. For example, most open source software licenses include provisions about distributing the software’s source code—the CC licenses do not address that important aspect of sharing software. The software sharing ecosystem is well-established, and there are many good open source software licenses to choose from. For more information, review the Open Source Initiative, which offers, licensing information, resources, and a community for developers.

Things to Remember about Public Domain Tools:

  • A public domain mark is not a legal tool like CC0. It is typically applied to very old works, where CC0 is when creators can give up their copyright and put their work into the worldwide public domain.
  • CC0 (or CC Zero) is an option for those creators who want to take a “no rights reserved approach” and disclaim copyright entirely. There is still a three-layer design to it. There is also a “fall-back” component, so the work can be used unconditionally, which is helpful for countries who do not allow an abandonment of copyrights.

Closing Thoughts:

Remember that you can only apply a CC license to anything protected by copyright that you own. And to reiterate again:  CC urges creators not to apply CC licenses to software. There are many better options for software and Creative Commons urges developers to use those licenses. Also, whose rights are covered by the licenses? Good question. The person who applied the license (the licensor) is the only person that is covered by the licenses. It might sound obvious, but realize that employers may own employee-generated content. And the creator cannot grant permissions, only the employer can do that. For further details, check out this section in the full textbook.

Just for fun, see if you can select the right answer :

References for Chapter 3:

Bearman, A. (2021) copyright is a spectrum. Creative Commons. Retrieved December 3, 2021 from

Creative Commons (n.d.) Creative Commons certificate for educators, academic librarians, and GLAM. Creative Commons. Retrieved September 27, 2021 from


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An OER Workshop by Andrea Bearman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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