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License unpacked: Inside our Creative Commons license

By Martha Attridge Bufton and Valerie Critchley

We have revised our Open Shelf author guidelines, in part to make our editing and publishing policies and procedures clearer for all those who contribute to the magazine. Copyright is one area that we’ve expanded a bit—it’s important that contributors understand that they retain their rights under Canadian copyright legislation but also that they have a template for giving Open Shelf credit as the original publisher for any material they republish or reproduce elsewhere.

Turns out, we had something to learn to … just what the heck is a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike license? With some input from Valerie Critchley, the copyright librarian at Carleton University, we “unpacked” this license and put together this short, basic FAQ.

Who retains the copyright to original material published in Open Shelf?
The original creator(s), either an individual or individuals or an organization, retain the copyright to original materials published in Open Shelf.

Why a Creative Commons license?
North American library staff are committed to providing access to information and knowledge for all, so Open Shelf is an open access publication.

The Creative Commons (CC) is a community that provides resources and tools to help individuals and organizations share online their “knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world.” A creator (contributor, author, etc.) uses a CC license when he/she want to give other individuals and/or institutions the right to share, use or “remix and remash” content he/she has created.

As explained on the CC site, CC copyright licenses and tools balance open access with rights within “the traditional “all rights reserved” setting created by copyright law.

In a nutshell, creators are making it possible for others to have access to copyrighted materials. So, a CC license fits with our philosophy of open access publishing while ensuring that creators (contributors, authors) and the Ontario Library Association (as the licensor) receive credit for work done.

What is attribution?
If someone uses your work (copies it, republishes it, adapts it), then they have to give you credit for your original work, i.e., they have to attribute the original work to you as the creator.

Likewise, if a creator (or creators) choose to republish material originally published in Open Shelf in another publication, the Ontario Library Association should receive attribution as the original publisher of that material.

What do “non-commercial” and “ShareAlike” mean?
When choosing a Creative Commons license, an individual or organization has to decide:

  • Is commercial use (copying, distribution, or other use) of content allowed? If the answer is no, then the licensor is restricting use to non-commercial purposes (e.g., for educational purposes).
  • Does a license allow for derivative work to be created from original content. If the answer is yes (i.e., others can share, use, adapt the original work), then the licensor requires that others must “ShareAlike,” e., use the same type of license.

More information about the Creative Commons community, and Creative Commons licenses, is available at

Martha Attridge Bufton, BBA (Hons), MA, MLIS, is the Open Shelf editor-in-chief and a subject specialist in Research Support Services at the Carleton University Library. Her research interests include game-based learning, writing communities and the decolonization of information literacy. She can be reached at martha.attridgebufton [at]

Valerie Critchley, MLIS, is the copyright and systems librarian at the Carleton University Library. She can be reached at valerie.critchley [at]

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