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Copyright and licences


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. Under UK law, Intellectual Property (IP) generated by an employee in the course of their usual work belongs to the employer. However, the University of Exeter waives ownership of copyright in materials of a scholarly nature such as academic journal articles and conference proceedings.

When publishing your work, publishers may require you to sign a ‘copyright transfer’ agreement. Once signed, this transfers copyright to the publisher, which means that they can do whatever they want with your work and you can no longer do whatever you want with it. Not all publishers require transfer of copyright. Retaining copyright is a core principle of Plan S, which applies to publicly funded research from 2021. Even if you retain copyright to the text the publisher is likely to own copyright in typesetting and layout; many publishers only allow the accepted manuscript to be made available in an institutional repository, not the final published version.

Copyright licensing

A copyright licence is a form of contract (also known as a 'permissions agreement') based in copyright law. Licences allow authors and creators to retain copyright whilst granting others permissions to use their work. Licences can allow work to be copied, distributed, edited, remixed or 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 provides a way to license the sharing and reuse of your work, under terms that are flexible and legally sound. Creative Commons offers a core suite of six copyright licences, based on four conditions.

All CC licences require that users provide attribution (BY) to the creator when the material is used or shared. CC BY is the most liberal licence, granting maximum opportunities for reuse, subject to attribution, and is required by many research funders. The other five licences combine CC BY with one or more of the additional licence elements: 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.

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.