All content that you upload that you own copyright for is automatically dual licensed as under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0. This is for example the same license family used by Wikipedia.
If you don't own the copyright for a work, you may still upload it if its license allows for "perpetual (non-expiring) and non-revocable" usage. This allows for example for:
  • all Creative Commons licenses
  • GNU General Public License
and so on.
Note however that the "non-commercial" (NC) and "no derivatives" (ND) CC license are basically legal minefields as it can be very subjective to decide what counts as commercial or a derivative, and so we will immediately take down material upon copyright owner request as we are not ready to test this in court!
For example:
  • it has not yet been decided if the OurBigBook Project will be ran as a not for profit or for profit organization. If a for-profit model is chosen, NC copyright owners could feel that their content being merely hosted on ourbigbook.com might constitute a for-profit usage as it could help bring publicity to the site.
    The project makes the following commitment however: if ever a way if found to make money from the project, all NC content will be excluded from any directly monetizable money-making activities, e.g. ads or otherwise.
  • which of the following consist of a derivative or not:
    • a table of contents that mirrors a ND work, but without the actual contents, which would automatically be filled with "the most upvoted article in a given topic"
    • a section of ND content without the rest of the work?
    • ND content but with extra article interlinking added?
    • ND content with IDs (such as HTML id= elements) but where IDs have been
    • a public modification request to an ND content?
Unfortunately, NC is extremely popular amongst academics, presumably due to professors hopes that one day their notes may become a book which will sell for money, or maybe simply for idealist reasons, and it would be too hard to fight against such licenses at this point in time.
Ultimately the project will have to decide if such licenses is worth the trouble or not, and if one day it seems apparent that it is not, a mass take down may happen. But for now we are willing to try. Wikimedia Commons for example has decided not to allow NC and ND.
Content that is not freely licensed might be allowed for upload under a fair use rationale. Fair use are murky waters. Wikipedia for example takes a very strict approach of very limited fair use: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Non-free_content, but we are more relaxed to it, and only take gray cases down upon copyright owner request.
Some examples of what should generally be OK:
  • quote up to a paragraph from a copyrighted book, clearly attributing it
  • explain what you've learned from a book or course in your own words.
    You also have to take some care to not copy the exact structure of the original, as that itself could be subject to copyright.
    One good approach is to just use several sources. If multiple sources use the same structure, then it is more arguable that this structure is not a novel copyrighted thing.
  • use a copyrighted image when there is no free alternative to illustrate what you are talking about
If the copyright owner complains in such cases, we might have to take something down, but as long as you are not just uploading a bunch of obviously copyrighted content, it's not the end of the world, we'll just find another freer way to explain things without them.
More egregious cases such as the upload of:
  • entire copyrighted books
  • copyrighted pieces of music
and so on will obviously be taken down preemptively as soon as noticed even without a take down request.


  1. OurBigBook.com policies
  2. OurBigBook.com
  3. OurBigBook Web user manual
  4. OurBigBook Web
  5. OurBigBook Project