U.S. Department of Education Open Licensing Rule Now in Effect

The U.S. Department of Education’s new open licensing rule has gone into effect.

Cable Green



The U.S. Department of Education’s new open licensing rule has gone into effect. Starting in FY 2018, education resources created with Department of Education discretionary competitive grants ($4.2 billion in FY 2016) must be openly licensed and shared with the public. Creative Commons (CC) congratulates the U.S. Department of Education for ensuring the public has access to the education resources it funds.

This announcement comes after years of work by Department of Education staff, multiple civil society organizations, and individual open education leaders.

CC’s involvement began in October 2015, when we joined the Department in calling for a new rule to require publicly funded education resources be openly licensed by default. A few months later, CC and other open education leaders submitted comments supporting the proposed rule. When the implementation of the rule was delayed, a coalition of open education organizations submitted additional comments in support of implementing the change.

This new Department of Education open licensing rule follows the example set by the Department of Labor agency-wide CC BY open licensing policy, the Department of State’s open licensing playbook for federal agencies, and multiple other open education licensing policies from around the world. While the rule does not specify the use of a CC license by name, it provides guidance on what attributes the open license needs to contain (see below).

Here is the text of the final rule published in the Federal Register and in the Government Publishing Office Code of Federal Regulations.

The key points in the new rule (summarized):

  • Grantees must openly license to the public any grant deliverable that is created wholly or in part with Department competitive grant funds.
  • Grantees must grant to the public a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, and irrevocable license to access, reproduce, prepare derivative works, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute the copyrightable work provided that attribution is given to the copyright holder.
    • The open license also must contain a symbol or device that readily communicates to users the permissions granted concerning the use of the copyrightable work; machine-readable code for digital resources; readily accessed legal terms; and the statement of attribution.
    • Grantees may select any open licenses that comply with the requirements of this section, including, at the grantee’s discretion, a license that limits use to noncommercial purposes.
  • A grantee that is awarded competitive grant funds must have a plan to disseminate the openly licensed copyrightable works created with grant funds.
  • The rule does not apply to:
    • funding for general operating expenses;
    • support to individuals (e.g., scholarships, fellowships);
    • grant deliverables that are jointly funded by the Department and another Federal agency if the other Federal agency does not require open licensing;
    • copyrightable works not created with Department grant funds;
    • peer-reviewed scholarly publications funded by the Department;
    • grantees under the Ready To Learn Television Program; or
    • a grantee that has received an exception from the Secretary of Education.

We celebrate this step forward and look forward to helping the Department implement this commitment to openness!