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Open Access at University of Reading: Copyright and licensing

Information about support for Open Access publishing in the University

Copyright and licensing

This page gives information on copyright and licensing issues relating to Open Access publishing.


You are the first owner of copyright in your scholarly work unless it has been commissioned by the University or a funding contract claims ownership. The University’s policy can be found links at the bottom of the page.

Traditionally, when writing for publication the publisher usually requires the author to sign a copyright transfer agreement (CTA). Once this agreement has been signed, the copyright in the whole work (including previous versions) belongs to the publisher. Publishers often have a policy which permits the author to do certain things with the work, such as self-archive the final peer-reviewed version in an institutional repository like CentAUR. However, not all publishers permit this and you should always check the publisher's policy to see whether this is allowed.

Open Access journals

Pure Open Access Journals allow the author to retain the copyright in their articles. Articles are instead made available under a Creative Commons licence (usually Attribution-Only, or CC-BY) to allow others to freely access, copy and use research provided the author is correctly attributed. Creative Commons licences are likely to be added to the article by the journal/publisher, but you should check with them when submitting. As you retain the copyright, you would be able to use the final published version of the article in any way you wished, including adding the full text to CentAUR.

Hybrid Open Access Journals give the author the option of publishing their article as Open Access or publishing via the traditional method. The author (or their institution) will usually have to pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) to make their article Open Access but in doing so retains copyright and the article is published under an open licence such as CC-BY. However, the author may choose not to publish their article as Open Access and instead sign a copyright transfer agreement, meaning they lose the copyright in all versions of their article. In this instance, you should check the publisher's policy to see whether you are permitted to self-archive your article in an institutional repository (which in essence is the 'Green' Open Access route). You may have to embargo your work for a period of time.

Licensing your work

Creative Commons is a licensing scheme which allows authors to license their work so that others may re-use it without having to contact them for permission. You may not add a Creative Commons licence to a work for which you do not hold the copyright. 

Adding a licence to your work

If you retain the copyright, you can do whatever you like with your work, including adding a licence to it.

Note that if you have assigned copyright to the publisher, you will not be able to add a licence to your work, including any earlier versions of it, unless you ask for permission from the publisher.

If your work contains third party copyright material (see below), you must ensure that you have the copyright holder's permission to make their work available under a Creative Commons licence unless an exception to copyright (such as quotations for the purpose of criticism or review) applies. For more information, see the Creative Commons Wiki.

Third party copyright material

Publishing a work under Open Access is no different from publishing under the traditional route when it comes to the requirement to obtain copyright permission to use third party content in your journal article or book. However, some types of work (such as images of fine art) carry high reproduction fees, particularly if the material is to be made freely available online.

When publishing under Open Access, you would need to negotiate for worldwide digital rights to use third party material, as it will be made available online and accessible to everyone. If you cannot get permission to reproduce material in this way, or you cannot afford the fees, you may be able to self-archive your work in CentAUR without the third party content.

Author checklist: what should I do?
  • Check the publisher's website to see what you are permitted to do with your submitted works (or contact the publisher directly), or check the SHERPA/RoMEO database.
  • Ask permission from the publisher directly if the reason you wish to use the work is not listed.
  • Consider licensing your work to the publisher rather than assigning your rights.
  • Get permission to use all third party copyright material that you use in your work if it falls outside the scope of an exception to copyright (particularly relevant for Open Access publishing).
Need further help?

For further advice and guidance contact