Copyright and licensing for open access books

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Fri Dec 6 2019

Author: Guest contributor

Do you want to make your research as accessible and discoverable as possible, to achieve greater impact? If so, you may be considering publishing an open access book. In this blog, we explain how copyright and licensing works when you choose open access.

Written by Christina Emery, Marketing Manager, Open Access Books

If you decide to publish your research as an open access book with one of Springer Nature’s imprints (such as Palgrave Macmillan, SpringerOpen and Apress), then you, as the author, retain copyright—as do any co-authors for their contribution (or sometimes the employer, if required by your organisation). This means that you own the right to the work, and you decide the type of Creative Commons licence that will be applied to your open access book.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organisation whose goal is to increase the amount of openly-licensed creativity. A Creative Commons licence (or CC licence) is a public copyright licence that enables the free distribution of otherwise copyrighted work. In other words, it describes how others can share, reuse and build upon your research. The specific licence that has been assigned to your open access book applies whether someone wants to use the entire book or just a part of it. One advantage to using a CC licence is that it is clear to readers what you are allowing them to do with your work—without them needing to contact you directly for permission. 

Choosing a licence

There are six types of CC licences and all of them require the user to attribute the original work back to you. You might be familiar with some of the licences if you have ever checked the usage rights field in the advanced settings of a Google image search.

All CC licences include these first two acronyms:

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

You might also see 4.0 being mentioned—this is the current version of the licence and it is updated by Creative Commons every few years. 

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 reuse your work; however, it cannot be modified or shared with others in adapted form)

Picking and choosing from these elements gives us the six licence options: CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-ND, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA, CC BY-NC-ND. 

Interested? Try out Creative Commons’ interactive tool that selects the right licence type for you in two questions.

Why we recommend CC BY

We are one of only a few major publishers to offer the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY) licence for open access books as the default licence. The CC BY licence is considered the industry ‘gold standard’ for open access as it is the most open licence which allows any form of re-use, providing the original publication is credited. It is also the same licence type required by most major funders. Other Creative Commons licences are, however, available on request. 

In practice, using a CC BY licence means that your open access book can be easily shared, increasing the reach of your research. Imagine being able to send the direct link of your open access book to anyone, even if they don’t have institutional access, so that your book can be downloaded immediately without the need to log in or pay. You may also decide to host the full text of your published work on your own website, or a department website—in fact, anywhere you like. Your work could also be translated, leading to more visibility for you and more impact for your work, as the original author must be referenced. Your open access book could be used for teaching, with all students having free access to the text, and it could be included in coursepacks.

Using someone else’s research

Looking at this topic from a different perspective, if you want to share or build upon someone else’s work that was published as an open access book, check the terms of their CC licence, then simply include the following information: Title of work, author, source and link, and that work’s licence type. If you are allowed to modify the original work published in the open access book, then don’t forget to mention what you have modified, as well as the new licence type, if permitted.

We offer open access for a variety of book types across all disciplines—learn more on our website.

Watch our 30-second video, Copyright and licensing for open access books:

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Christina Emery is Marketing Manager for Springer Nature’s open access books programmes. Her aim is to spread the word about the benefits of publishing academic books open access to researchers around the world.


Author: Guest contributor

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