Open Educational Resources (OER): Instructor Guide

Permissions, Fair Dealing and MOUs

Permission Forms

Here are some useful permission forms or templates you can adapt for your OER projects if you plan to have co-authors, take images or videos or sound recordings of people, or want to include third party materials that you would need permission to reuse. 

Fair Dealing and Open Educational Resources

What is fair dealing?

Fair dealing is an exception in the Canadian Copyright Act which allows you to use other people’s material for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review or news reporting, education, and satire or parody without having to seek permissions.What is “fair” will depend on the circumstances.  The courts will normally consider these six factors:

  • The purpose of the dealing – Was the use for commercial or research / educational purposes?
  • The amount of the dealing – How much was copied?
  • The character of the dealing – Was it a single use or ongoing? How widely was it distributed?
  • Alternatives to the dealing – How essential was the use of the work? Could the purpose have been achieved without using the work?
  • The nature of the work – Was there public interest involved? Was it previously unpublished?
  • The effect of the dealing on the original work – Did the use impact on the market value or sale of the original work?

Using the Fair Dealing Exception in Your OER

The Trent University Fair Dealing Guideline outlines how to use fair dealing in an educational context to support your courses at Trent. However this only applies to course readings delivered in a password protected environment like D2L or for class handouts. We don't use fair dealing for published works distributed on the Internet and collections such as printed course readers at Trent University.  Open Educational Resources created at Trent should not include material under fair dealing except in cases where a formal fair dealing evaluation based on the 6 factors has been done by the Copyright Librarian. It is often the case that permission will be required for the inclusion of copyrighted works for published OER. Please contact for a fair dealing evaluation if you plan to use that exception for materials included in your OER. 

Memorandums of Understanding (MOU)

Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) are useful tools for open projects and align with values of open education practice because they make explicit contributors roles and responsibilities before a project starts. They are especially important to use when there are students and part-time faculty involved in projects. 

For example, an MOU can be used to clearly lay out the rights of students when participating in a collaborative open textbook project, and the responsibilities of the faculty member to their students. Its purpose is to make sure that students are informed about the requirements of the project and the implications of the license they choose.

Zoe Wake Hyde, MOU FOR STUDENTS AND FACULTY from A GUIDE TO MAKING OPEN TEXTBOOKS WITH STUDENTS Licenced under a CC BY 4.0 Creative Commons licence.

Sample Permission Letter to Ask for Permission to Include Copyrighted Material

Here is a sample permissions letter that you can send to a rights holder. Feel free to insert and remove details so that your request is relevant to your work.

Dear [recipient’s name],

I am developing an open textbook called [insert name of text/OER]. This open textbook is intended to be an Open Educations Resource (OER) and will be freely available to anyone in the public via [LINK] Under the policy Open Policy [LINK],  this work will be licensed under a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 attribution license.

I would like to use the following material within this open textbook:

[Include links, page numbers, any relevant information that will help the rightsholder identify the material]

In addition to this, I would like permission to adapt, adjust, and modify this material in order to customize them for use within this open textbook.

I am flexible and open to discuss any restrictions with regard to modification. Please share any specifics related to acknowledgement to ensure proper attribution and recognition.

In granting permission, you assert that you are the rights holder. If you are not, please provide any contact information you may have.

You may contact me at: [insert preferred methods of communication]

Thank you,


Adapted from Copyright, OER Toolkit. University of Toronto. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License