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Getting Started with Open Educational Resources (OER): Adapt OER

Adaptations/Remixes vs. Collections

Introductory note: The distinction between adaptations and collections is one of the trickiest concepts in copyright law. While there are many situations in which the differences are clear, there are also several ambiguous scenarios. The distinction between adaptations and remixes varies by jurisdiction and, even within a given jurisdiction, a judge’s determination between the two can be subjective, since there are few definitive rules on which to rely.

In contrast to an adaptation or remix, a collection involves the assembly of separate and independent creative works into a collective whole. A collection is not an adaptation. One community member likened the difference between adaptations and collections to smoothies and TV dinners, respectively.

  1. Like a smoothie, an adaptation / remix mixes material from different sources to create a wholly new creation:

Fruit smoothie ingredients


Image attributions: “CC Smoothie” by Nate Angell. CC BY. Derivative of “Strawberry Smoothie On Glass Jar” by Element5 ( in the public domain, and various Creative Commons license buttons by Creative Commons ( used under CC BY.

In a “smoothie” or adaptation / remix, you often cannot tell where one open work ends and another one begins. While this flexibility is useful for the new creator, it is still important to provide attribution to the individual parts that went into making the adaptation.

An example of an education adaptation would be an open textbook chapter that weaves together multiple open educational resources in such a way that the reader can’t tell which resource was used on which page. That said, the endnotes of the book chapter should still provide attribution to all of the sources that were remixed in the chapter.

2. Like a TV dinner, a collection compiles different works together while keeping them organized as distinct separate objects. An example of a collection would be a book that compiles openly-licensed essays from different sources.

TV dinner

Image attributions: “CC TV Dinner” by Nate Angell. CC BY. Derivative of “tv dinner 1″ by adrigu ( used under CC BY, and various Creative Commons license buttons by Creative Commons ( used under CC BY.

When you create a collection, you must provide attribution and licensing information about the individual works in your collection. This gives the public the information they need to understand who created what and which license terms apply to specific content. Revisit Section 4.1 on choosing a license to learn how to properly indicate the copyright status of third party works that you incorporate into your new work.

When you combine material into a collection, you may have a separate copyright of your own that you may license. However, your copyright only extends to the new contributions you made to the work. In a collection, that is the selection and arrangement of the various works in the collection, and not the individual works themselves. For example, you can select and arrange pre-existing poems published by others into an anthology, write an introduction, and design a cover for the collection, but your copyright and the only copyright you can license extends to your arrangement of the poems (not the poems themselves), and your original introduction and cover. The poems are not yours to license.



Information on this page is derivative of Creative Commons Certificate for Librarians course content by Creative Commons and is offered under a CC BY license. Content in this course can be considered under this license unless otherwise noted.

Collection vs. Adaptation/Remix of 2 or More OERs


Content included in the OER by Subject Research Guide by Skyline Library is licensed CC BY 4.0 unless otherwise indicated.