FAQ: What is open access?

If a material is open access, the copyright owner has made the material publicly accessible and has given blanket permission to users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, link to, crawl through, index or otherwise use the material in all or most circumstances.

Open Access can be a tricky word to define.  Generally, works that are open access have been made publicly available for others to use without requiring users to ask the copyright owner for permission.

Open access materials often have attached licences that give users permission to use the materials. A licence may contain restrictions as to what kind of uses can be made without permission. It may contain requirements as to how the material should be cited or attributed. When using open access licensed materials, it is essential to check the licence before using them.

Open access licences can be attached to all copyright works, not just scholarly publications, but the open access movement is quite powerful in the scholarly publishing space. For more information about open access and scholarly publishing, check out the Australasian Open Access Support Group.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organisation that helps creators and users share materials by providing free legal tools such as open access licences. Find out more about Creative Commons.

Creative Commons licences are simple to use. They are easily identified and widely understood in the higher education education sector.

There are six Creative Commons licences available. Each licence has an associated image and abbreviation, as you’ll see below. The licences are listed in order from least restrictive to most restrictive.

The Creative Commons Licences

Attribution (CC BY)

Attribution (CC BY)

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

View License Deed | View Legal Code

Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

This license lets others remix, tweak and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to copyleft free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

View License Deed | View Legal Code

Attribution-NonCommercial

Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)

This license lets others remix, tweak and build upon your work non-commercially and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

View License Deed | View Legal Code

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

This license lets others remix, tweak and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

View License Deed | View Legal Code

Attribution-NoDerivs

Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)

This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

View License Deed | View Legal Code

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

View License Deed | View Legal Code

Information about the licences is reproduced from About The Licences and is provided under the CC BY licence.

What is the public domain?

Works enter the public domain in Australia when the copyright has expired. For most materials, this is seventy years after the creator’s death.

When a work enters the public domain, it can be freely used without restriction, including the need for attribution.

In other countries, works can enter the public domain in other ways. For example, in some countries, creators can put their works into the public domain voluntarily as soon as they are created.  Additionally, in some countries, works created by employees of the federal government automatically enter the public domain after creation.

In Australia however, laws regarding moral rights prevent works from truly entering the public domain prior to the expiration of the copyright term. Works in Australia must be attributed to the creator until the copyright has expired – the duration for moral rights is the same as that for copyright.

Australians can use works that have entered the public domain in other countries, but Australians must still adhere to moral rights laws and attribute the works, even though that may not be required in other countries.

Information on this page has been reproduced with permission from UNSW Australia.

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