What is an open license?

Creators may choose to make their content available under an 'open license'.

This enables them to retain all their copyrights while offering others upfront permission to use the content under certain conditions.

For example, the copyright holder may stipulate that their work can be freely used or shared with others, as long as this is not done for commercial purposes. They may also choose to allow others to ‘build on’ their work, provided they make the resulting new versions available to others under the same license.


The creator can make their work available under a standard open license (e.g. a CC license) or formulate this upfront permission in writing, e.g. on a website. This is usually included in the 'About us', 'Terms and conditions' or 'Copyright' sections, or in the actual publication (on the cover page, in the preface or in the publication details).


For example:



Source: Adapted from European Union. (2021). Legal notice. [Print Screen]. Retrieved on July 15, 2021, from https://europa.eu/european-union/abouteuropa/legal_notices_en#copyright-notice

Official government publications

Under Dutch law, there is no copyright on the text of:

  • laws,
  • regulations,
  • court rulings,
  • administrative decisions.

These publications may be freely copied and published, unless they state that copyright is reserved. All other government publications are subject to copyright. 

Please note: This exception does not apply to legal texts derived from published sources, e.g. law books published by Uitgeverij Kluwer or texts from Kluwer Navigator. See 'Exceptional cases' for more information on the possibilities for educational use of these publications. 

What is a CC license?

A Creative Commons license (or CC license for short) is a formal standard license developed by Creative Commons.

Creative Commons is an international initiative that aims to promote the free distribution of knowledge and information.

The licenses on the Dutch Creative Commons website are formulated in accordance with Dutch copyright law. 


CC licenses are composed of 4 building blocks: 'Attribution' (BY), 'Non-commercial' (NC), 'No derivative works' (ND) and 'Share alike' (SA). These elements can be combined to create 6 different licenses, each offering a different level of freedom.

Finally, there are also CC0 licenses (CC zero = no attribution) and PD licenses (public domain = works whose copyright has expired).

Choosing the right license for your purpose

The extent to which you are permitted to use a specific material will depend on its CC license.

Make sure you ask yourself the following question when choosing the most suitable materials for your purposes:

What do I want to use the material for?

  • Do I want to share it with others?
  • Do I want to modify or edit it?
  • Do I want to use it commercially?

You will need to find materials with a license that allows you to use them for your specific purposes.

The table below describes the degree of openness of each CC license type: the permitted forms of and conditions for use.

Note. Adapted from Shaddim; original CC license symbols by Creative Commons, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Why should I use open-licensed materials?

There are many reasons to use open educational resources in the classroom. Here are the two most important ones:

  • Cutting costs

You can use open educational resources instead of copyrighted materials. For example, you can use open textbooks to avoid the costs of long excerpts.

  • Enrichment

Open educational resources can be an effective supplement to existing teaching materials. For example, you can refer students to open source textbooks as an additional learning resource. In some cases, a slightly different explanation can be more helpful.

Where do I find CC-licensed materials?

Open Access articles and CC licensed materials are being published or developed in every academic discipline.

It's just a matter of finding them.

See the 'Open and online education - Collections with open educational resources' Library Guide (in Dutch) for an overview of useful sources of CC-licensed teaching materials in each field.

Please note:

  • While a specific license may apply to all materials on a website, you will generally need to check the license for each individual material;
  • Want to tailor materials to your specific situation? If so, make sure to choose materials with a license that allows you to do so
  • Don't forget to acknowledge the source.

TIP: Let's say you're searching Google images for photos of lungs: select the Tools button below the search bar. You can now choose which sources you want to display under ‘usage rights’, e.g. exclusively show sources with a Creative Commons license.

More information on open educational resources and CC licenses