How To Become a Copyright Expert

Creative Commons certificates and workshops for librarians, educators, and government workers will impart mastery on a variety of copyright issues.

Participants in a Creative Commons certificate beta training session for the LOUIS
consortium of Louisiana libraries at the University of New Orleans Earl K. Long Library.
Photos courtesy of The University of New Orleans

Increasingly, librarians are relied upon to answer questions and engage in activities involving copyright—whether that means supporting teachers seeking free or low-cost materials for classroom use, developing resources for maker spaces, or helping students understand the legality of using content from the Internet.

However, building the expertise to confidently offer copyright advice can be challenging. Librarians often look to the nonprofit organization Creative Commons (CC) and other open-access resources to locate works they can legally, and affordably, use. To better support those who use, create, and advocate for their resources, CC is designing a certificate program with content tailored for librarians, educators, and government workers.

Through this free program, participants will build an in-depth understanding of CC resources and related copyright and intellectual property topics. They’ll also earn a credential that offers evidence of this expertise.

What is Creative Commons?

Copyright protects the rights of those who create original works. But anyone who has tried to license rights to copyrighted material for their library knows that using them in certain settings can be difficult. Creative Commons licenses streamline this process. By licensing works under a CC license, a creator can grant anyone the right to use their material in specific situations for free without having to contact the creator.

The four CC licenses protect works in specific ways: by requiring that anything created with the work is also shared under a CC license; limiting use to noncommercial ends; prohibiting alterations of the work; and ensuring attribution. The licenses are standardized and offered in a machine-readable format, so that it’s easier to license material without the help of a lawyer. Creators can also share works on the CC site, reaching a wide audience.

Though these licenses facilitate the sharing and use of copyrighted works, there’s still a need in many communities for an individual who understands both copyright and CC licenses to serve as an advocate for the open sharing of resources.

The Four Ways

Core Certificate This will cover the “full breadth and depth of learning associated with acquiring comprehensive knowledge about all aspects of Creative Commons,” according to the site (, and will serve as the basis for the curricula for other certificates.

Librarian Certificate Designed for librarians (and particularly academic librarians), this will cover topics of particular importance in libraries, including open access, open educational resources (OER), 3-D printing, and institutional open-access policies.

Educator Certificate This will focus on all aspects of OER and “aims to ensure all educators have the grounding and digital literacy associated with successfully using Creative Commons for open educational resources, open practices, open policy, and open pedagogy”.

Government Certificate The fourth certificate is for those who work in government and will include information about how to promote open sharing of content and build a culture that supports CC and open access.

Get CC certified

Recognizing the importance of licensing expertise in a number of fields,C developed the certification program with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The idea grew from the work that CC completed as part of a grant program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. That project provided money to community colleges to create educational materials licensed with CC. The endeavor led to the realization that “the best way to scale and sustain our support of those using [Creative Commons] licensing would be to create a certificate program designed to give people within educational institutions, government staffs, librarians, and others the tools they need to thoroughly understand how to use CC licensing in their own contexts,” says Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, CC senior counsel.

Because copyright is relevant to virtually every field, it was clear that there would be multiple audiences. Four certificates will be available next year, with each curriculum tailored to the specific needs of a discrete field.

In each case, the certificate program will consist of six modules, with five identical core modules and a sixth addressing the unique needs and interests of each group. The certificates will also feature different learning activities, called “Quests,” and relevant examples.

The organization is using a flipped classroom approach to teaching, with participants completing the learning modules online at their own pace. Kyle Courtney, program manager and copyright adviser at the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication, had an opportunity to test the materials. Courtney describes them as “somewhere between a self-paced MOOC and a commonplace book [with] plenty of resources” and “plenty of time in between for interactivity, growth, using Creative Commons- designed exercises.”

Once participants complete the online content, they will attend a two-day in-person workshop to “generate evidence of learning completion, demonstrate mastery by completing a final assignment for each module, and learn from each other through shared learning activities and discussion.” The workshops will be offered in a variety of locations and could dovetail with professional meetings and conferences for librarians and educators. In total, the time required for certification will be about 40 to 50 hours.

After the workshop, participants will submit evidence of their work for review and evaluation by trained facilitators. Once that has been approved, participants will receive an official CC certificate and will be listed publicly on the Creative Commons website.

Creative Commons education fellow David Wiley.

Testing the curriculum

Over the summer, the team working on the certificates offered three workshops to gather feedback on the drafted curricular materials. “As beta participants, I suspect we received just as much value in the actual training as Creative Commons received in the participant feedback,” says Teri Oaks Gallaway, associate commissioner for LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network. Gallaway attended one of the workshops along with 70 librarians from her state.

The CC team is still reviewing workshop response and refining the materials. “One thing we learned was that there was a real appetite to go fairly deep into the complexities of the licenses, often more than we had originally anticipated when writing the content,” Pearson says. This and other feedback have informed the activities relevant to questions that people will hear in their communities.

Even without these finishing touches, participants are already convinced of the value of the certificate program. For Gallaway, this comes down to the fact that her organization needs “a trained community of professionals to educate faculty on how to work with Creative Commons licenses.” Courtney, who also attended a workshop, echoes this sentiment, noting that the material covered “would be a beautiful complement to all libraries’ work in the 21st century.”

Coming soon

Once the team makes final revisions to the curricula, they plan to run a full beta test of the program over 12 weeks starting in January 2018. The group will officially launch the certificate program at the Creative Commons Global Summit in Toronto in April 2018. Those interested in serving as beta testers may email Pearson ( Updates on the team’s progress are also available on the CC website or by joining the #cc-certificates channel on Creative Commons’ Slack space.

“Our hope,” Pearson says, “is this certificate will empower more people to advocate for and support adoption of open licensing within their institutions, organizations, and departments.”

Carli Spina is head librarian of assessment and outreach at Boston College Libraries.

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Arnob Endry

An innumerous number of students passed from BCI are living standard lives for service & study in Europe, America, Australia, South African countries worldwide.

Posted : Jan 18, 2018 02:40

Foo Yan Chuin

Greetings! Thank you for working on this worthy project. I am a librarian and I am interested in the Librarian Certificate and Educator Certificate. Your website mentioned that after the launch at the Creative Commons Global Summit in Toronto in April 2018, the workshop will be launched at other locations. Please let me know what are the other locations and do provide other information that you think may be useful. All the best!

Posted : Dec 08, 2017 10:32



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