Published 29 September 2020

How will researchers use, re-use and build upon my research?1

When your book is published open access, what readers can do with your published work depends on the licence.

Most open access books will have a Creative Commons (CC) licence. However, some publishers use their own licence, in which case a reader will need to check what is permitted under that particular licence. A book can also be made freely available without a licence. In this instance, the book is not considered ‘open access’, rather it is only free to download. Readers are not allowed to make copies of your work; sell or otherwise distribute your work; prepare adaptations (e.g., audio editions, movie adaptations and translations); or perform or display your work publicly without prior permission from the copyright holder. This is what is meant by ‘all rights reserved’.

Licence types2

There are six types of CC licence, all of which require the user to attribute the original work back to you. CC licences allow you to decide how ‘open’ your work should be, by putting conditions on readers’ re-use and derivative work rights.

All CC licences include these first two acronyms:

  • CC: Creative Commons (the type of licence)
  • BY: attribution (the copyright holder must be acknowledged)

CC BY, the most open licence, allows any form of re-use providing the original publication is credited. Additional limitations can be added for your preferred licence type.

  • SA: share alike. This allows for modifications as long as any modified work carries the same licence type.
  • NC: non-commercial. This lets others share, modify and build upon your open access book but not for commercial purposes.
  • ND: no derivatives. Others can re-use your work. However, it cannot be modified or shared with others in adapted form.

Creative Commons has created an interactive tool that selects the suitable licence type for you with just two questions about how you want your work to be used and shared. The more rights you grant to readers and the fewer restrictions you place on readers’ use of your work, the more ‘open’ your work is considered to be. However, granting rights to others does not mean that you give up your own right to share or adapt your work.

Once you apply a CC licence to your work, that licence may not be revoked. Even if you stop making your work available to the public, anyone may rely on the terms of the licence that was originally attached to your work to re-use it. However, because CC licences are non-exclusive, authors are also free to license their works on altogether different terms. For instance, you might license commercial uses on a case-by-case basis while providing your work to the public under a non-commercial open access licence.

Licensed books are still protected by copyright, and the conditions you place on the use of your copyrighted work, through open access licences, are legally enforceable. If a user fails to comply with the terms of the licence you select, you can bring a copyright infringement claim against that user. For example, if someone makes a commercial reproduction of a copyrighted work that you have licensed for non-commercial use only, that user is infringing on your copyright because they are exceeding the scope of the licence.

Last edited on 29 September 2020, at 17:00 (+0000)