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Copyright and licences


Copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that an individual has in a work that they created, it 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. Under UK law, Intellectual Property (IP) generated by an employee in the course of their usual work belongs to the employer. However, the University's IP Policy states that the University waives ownership of copyright in materials of a scholarly nature such as academic journal articles.

When publishing, you will be asked who owns copyright in your work, you should discuss ownership of copyright with your co-authors. When publishing open access, normally you retain copyright and grant the publisher a licence to publish your work. When not publishing open access you may be required to sign a Copyright Transfer Agreement, transferring copyright to the publisher. The publisher then owns the rights in your work and will set out how you are allowed to share and reuse it, they may allow you to deposit the accepted manuscript version in a repository but impose an embargo on access and restrictive licensing terms.

Under the University of Exeter Institutional Rights Retention Policy,  researchers at the University retain the rights to share their accepted manuscript version with immediate open access under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY). Read more about Rights Retention.

To find out more about copyright in teaching and research, visit the Copyright Toolkit.

Copyright licensing and Creative Commons

Copyright licences allow authors and creators to retain copyright whilst granting others permissions to use their work. They enable you to modify your copyright terms and allow your work to be copied, distributed, edited, remixed or built upon, within the boundaries of copyright law.

Creative Commons provides a way to license the sharing and reuse of your work, under terms that are flexible and legally sound, offering a core suite of six copyright licences.

All CC licences require that users provide attribution (BY) to the creator when the material is used or shared. Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY (only) is the most open licence, granting maximum opportunities for reuse (subject to attribution). The other five licences combine CC BY with one or more additional terms: Non Commercial (NC) prohibits reuse for commercial purposes; No Derivatives (ND) prohibits others from modifying or adapting your work (it must be passed on whole and unchanged); Share Alike (SA) requires adaptations of the material to be released under the same licence.

Many funders, including the Wellcome Trust, UKRI, Horizon Europe and NIHR require that research articles are made available under the CC BY (only) licence, unless an exception has been applied for and granted to use CC BY-ND where the funder allows. Most funders permit more restrictive licences for long-form outputs, including those prohibiting Commercial or Derivative reuse. Read more about funder open access policies.

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

The University Rights Retention Policy licenses all accepted manuscripts arising from journal article submissions with a Univeristy of Exeter author or co-author with CC BY (only) licence, or equivalent licence terms.