Licences: Copyright and creative commons

Copyright and licensing

Copyright is an automatic right protected in law as soon as a work is produced. The legal owner in the first instance is the creator (author) of the work. Copyright resides separately in the typographical arrangement (layout) of published editions.

Some journal publishers require authors to sign over their rights when publishing an item via ‘copyright transfer’ agreements. Even if authors retain copyright over the text the publisher is likely to own copyright in typesetting and layout. For this reason, many publishers will only allow deposit to an institutional repository of the author’s accepted version of an article, not the final or published version.

Licenses help authors and creators retain copyright whilst granting others permissions to use their work. Licences can allow work to be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, within the boundaries of copyright law. They are not an alternative to copyright but work alongside copyright law to enable you to modify your copyright terms.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) licenses provide an easy way to manage the copyright terms that attach automatically to all creative material under copyright law. CC licenses allow material to be shared and reused under terms that are flexible and legally sound. Creative Commons offers a core suite of six copyright licenses. Because there is no single Creative Commons license it is important to identify which of the six licenses you are applying to your material, and which of the six licenses has been applied to any material that you intend to use.

All CC licenses require that users provide attribution (BY) to the creator when the material is used and shared. Attribution is the only condition to reuse of material licensed as CC BY. This most liberal license is preferred by most research funders and is a requirement of some.

The other five licenses combine BY with one or more of three additional license elements: NonCommercial (NC), which prohibits commercial use of the material; NoDerivatives (ND), which prohibits the sharing of adaptations of the material; and ShareAlike (SA), which requires adaptations of the material be released under the same license.

The University’s institutional repository Open Research Exeter (ORE) has a data policy that allows equivalent rights to the CC BY licence to all items deposited therein, unless otherwise specified.