One of the most challenging parts of creating a working text for writing courses is in collecting readings. This is because most popularly used readings exist under copyright, and to use them repeatedly would require paying to license the works. To avoid this fee — which is one of the reasons that proprietary readers are so expensive — instructors can use a variety of methods to find openly available resources or to steer students toward resources for which they already pay.
|Please note: no advice given here should be taken as legal advice about copyright or fair use. Consult your own campus officials for more information about what is allowed in your courses.|
Openly Licensed Readings
- Project Gutenberg collects literary works that are in the public domain, meaning there is no fee for use. You can link to individual pieces here or embed them in your course. Some popular works include:
- Complete works of William Shakespeare
- The Works of Artistotle
- Complete Prose Works of Walt Whitman
- Books by Harriet Beecher Stowe
- Essays of Michel de Montaigne
- Oxford Book of American Essays (c. 1914)
- Works of Mary Wollstonecraft
- Frankenstein (Mary W. Shelley)
- The Electronic Literature Collection hosts three volumes of work, published by the Electronic Literature Organization in both print and online form. E-literature may take many forms (hypertext, novels in the form of e-mail messages, etc.). All of this is available for use under a CC-BY-NC-ND license (some licenses may be less restrictive), meaning the works can be downloaded and embedded into a course or linked to, but not edited.
- The London School of Economics Impact blog publishes current-events-related pieces under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
- Open Culture keeps a list of Free eBooks, including both fiction and non-fiction
- Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States offers public-domain versions of presidential papers, including inaugural addresses.
- The Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard licenses its content under a CC-BY-SA license, including side projects like the “harmful speech online” collection of works and the Lumen blog, which collects data on all take-down requests online.
Openly Licensed Visual Media
The xkcd webcomic is released under a CC-BY-NC license, meaning it can be embedded (with attribution) and derivatives can be made, but it cannot be sold for commercial profit.
- The New York Public Library has a Public Domain collection of video, audio, and images that can be used with no copyright restriction.
- The British Library released 1,000,000 images in 2017 that can be reused and remixed freely.
- C-SPAN videos of U.S. Senate and House floor debates are in the public domain (though note that their other videos are not).
- Famous presidential speeches contains video and transcripts of speeches made by U.S. presidents; videos that are from the White House are available in the Public Domain. The transcripts are also public domain if published by the government. The Miller Center at the University of Virginia has a large catalog of speeches to choose from (note that some may not be public domain because the recordings themselves may be licensed by networks — look for the source at the top-right of each video’s page).
- DemocracyNow! produces a daily video and audio news podcast under a CC-BY-NC-ND license, which can be used for live courses and embedded in online courses. The text transcripts are also available under this license.
No- or Low-Cost Media (not openly licensed but possibly available)
- Library database materials may be invaluable for a low-cost course. For example, many schools maintain subscriptions to article databases like the EBSCO or Gale databases, which will provide direct links to news articles. Using links provided through the library web site provides a way to include current events articles into a course through a resource students already pay for (through tuition and fees).
- Newspaper subscriptions: Some newspapers now offer students free or low-cost subscriptions while they have registered education e-mail addresses. This includes:
- Library video collections: many libraries have subscriptions to video databases that will allow streaming of video clips and entire movies