End user licences

In order for your research results to be freely reusable and accessible, you are advised to make open-access publications accessible under a free license, which excludes any legal uncertainties on the part of the authors and the readers from the very beginning. 

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons copyright licences offer authors a simple, standardised method to grant readers distribution and reproduction rights to a work. Based on the building block principle, the desired licence can be compiled from the modules available.   

The use of the module "Attribution" (BY) is obligatory for all CC licences.


The licence can then be supplemented with the following modules as required:

  • ShareAlike (SA)
  • NoDerivs (ND)
  • NonCommercial (NC)

Example: CC licence with the modules "Attribution" and "NonCommercial".

Licences for OA publications

The most common licence among open-access publishers is CC-BY (Creative Commons Attribution Licence). This licence permits the unlimited reproduction, distribution, publication, modification and commercial use of a work. Both BioMed Central and PLOS, along with an increasing number of other open-access journals, use this as a standard licence.

The use of CC-BY has the advantage that no future types of use whatsoever can be excluded from the outset. Authors often tend to exclude the commercial use of their works by selecting a CC-BY-NC licence. However, you should bear in mind that the use of your work in non-commercial services, such as Wikipedia, can be prevented if they in turn require a more liberal licence.  

In an extensive declaration, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (external link) (OASPA) states why it deems the use of CC-BY in the context of open access preferable over other licence types (external link).

By the same token, there are also calls that warn against promoting CC-BY as a standard licence model for scientific publications. Some scientists and publishers fear that an (unconditional) adherence to CC-BY could hamper the development of successful open-access business models for monographs. 

The following article offers a sound introduction into the pro and cons of the CC-BY debate:
Graf, K, Thatcher, p. (2012). Point & Counterpoint: Is CC BY the Best Open Access License?. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 1(1):eP1043 (external link).

Further information

More information on how to choose a Creative Commons Licence for your work can be found on the Research Collection Manual (external link). The information provided in the manual applies to publications in open access journals as well as in open access repositories.