How Creative Commons licences support open scholarship
By Kirsty, on 23 October 2023
Happy Open Access Week 2023!
This year’s theme is ‘community over commercialisation’. It is about adopting research and education practices that place priority on the interests of the public. In the context of scholarly communications, it is about making access to scholarly knowledge open and accessible to diverse communities, in transparent and sustainable ways.
For this to be achieved, the outcomes of academic research and education – research data, preprints, published articles, monographs, educational resources – must be open to access but also open to reuse: free access to an article, an online tutorial or a dataset has great benefits, but the potential for users of these materials to share them with others, adapt, add to and improve upon them is what makes innovation and creativity possible.
Creative Commons (CC licences) support open and reusable research by offering a standardised way in which authors can grant others certain permissions to reuse their works. In this post we highlight some key points about CC licences and discuss how they benefit both creators and users of copyright-protected materials.
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons (CC) is “an international non-profit organisation dedicated to helping build and sustain a thriving commons of shared knowledge and culture”. The organisation is active in supporting, educating and advocating for a more open culture; but it is most known for its licences.
How do Creative Commons licences work?
If you are the author of pretty much any creative work – a journal article, an image, a music composition, a website, a book – making your work available under a CC licence helps you:
- As the copyright owner of the work, give ‘blanket’ permission to others to copy and share your work, while requiring that they attribute you as the author.
- Decide what further uses you give blanket permission for. Do you allow others to make adaptations(e.g. to translate your book, adapt a teaching resource for a new audience, or change your artwork)? Do you allow others to reuse for a commercial purpose?
- Decide if you would like to ensure that future adaptations of your work (if you are allowing them) are also made available under the same licence, keeping them as ‘open’ as yours.
Image attribution: Barbara Klute und Jöran Muuß-Merholz für wb-web unter CC BY-SA 3.0. The English version is a translation and enhancement by Jöran Muuß-Merholz under the same license., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The combination of these criteria: attribution (a requirement for all licences), allowing/not allowing derivatives, allowing/not allowing commercial reuse, and requiring/not requiring sharing under the same licence (‘share-alike) creates a set of six licences creators can choose from.
How do Creative Commons licences support open scholarship and the needs of different communities?
There are numerous examples of how CC licences help free up research and education. CC licences applied to open access articles, conference proceedings, monographs and other scholarly works make it possible for readers of these works around the world – who may include academic researchers, lecturers, students but also health practitioners, innovators, artists and the general public – to benefit from these works and potentially create something new and innovative as a result. CC licences applied to research data enables data to be shared and reused across different organisations and countries. CC licences applied to preprints, study preregistrations and theses ensure openness in research that is not yet formally published. In the same way, particularly through allowing adaptations, CC licences support the development and success of Open Educational Resources (OERs).
Beyond traditional scholarship, CC licences help open up cultural collections and offer opportunities for publishers and the creative industries to adopt new business models that serve their audiences better.
How can I learn more about Creative Commons?
If you have made it so far in this post, you may have further questions including how to apply a CC licence, how to discover and reuse CC materials, how CC licences work alongside copyright and how they can support commercially sensitive works. Here are a few things you can do:
- Drop-in any time between 12 pm and 2 pm on Teams on Tuesday 24 October, to hear more, ask questions and tell us about your experiences with CC licences. You can join for just a few minutes to ask a question or stay for longer to become a CC expert. Register for the CC licences drop-in session.
- Take our 5-question fun personality quiz to discover which licence you are. You may not learn anything new about yourself, but you will hopefully get even more familiar with how the range of CC licences can be applied in different situations. Your responses will be anonymous.
- Discover more CC activities and news on the Creative Commons blog.