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Copyright, Open Access, Fair Use & Public Domain

Open Access Resources


Open Access Defined


Open Access

Open Access refers to content available for use and sharing without copyright, or licensing restrictions commonly placed on published works or images. Typically Open Access content is provided by archives, libraries, museums, or scholars who have chosen to make works available online without restrictions on distribution or reuse. 


Open Access is:

  • A spectrum of copyright licensing policies under which authors and copyright owners make works publicly available via the Internet rather than through a fee-based subscription database
  • Works which are still covered by copyright law, but Open Access terms apply to allow sharing and reuse
  • Carried out largely through open access journals, subject-specific and institutional repositories, where research is posted online for anyone to access

Open Licensing Explained

When a creator or copyright holder assigns an open license to their work they are specifying how they want others to reuse it. Open licensing does not replace copyright. Open licenses work with copyright to promote shared use. This changes the copyright from “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”


Creative Commons Licenses

For Open Licensing, the most widely used open licenses are the Creative Commons (CC) licenses, which make it possible for educators to freely and legally share their work. Creative Commons licenses work with copyright to automatically give users a set of usage rights pertaining to that work. When something is licensed with a Creative Commons license, users know how they are allowed to use it. Since the copyright holder retains copyright, the user may still seek the creator’s permission when they want to reuse the work in a way not permitted by the license.


License Terms

Creators or copyright holders who wish to apply a Creative Commons license to their work can choose the conditions of reuse and modification by selecting one or more of the restrictions listed below. Every Creative Commons license except the Public Domain designation requires users to give attribution to the creator of the work. Other restrictions are optional and may prevent reuse in unintended ways, so care is suggested in selecting a license.


   cc Attribution by logo Attribution (BY)  

You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

   cc-NonCommercial logo Non-commercial (NC)

The material cannot be used for commercial purposes.

   CC Sharealike Logo  Share Alike (SA)

If you remix, transform or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

     CC Non-Derivatives Logo No Derivative Works (ND)

If you remix, transform or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.


License Types

There are six possible licenses that can be derived from combining the license terms described above and assigned to materials by the original creator or author. To learn more about the license designs, rationale, and structure of Creative Commons licenses, please read About the licenses by Creative Commons.

Creative Commons (CC) is an internationally active, non-profit organization that provides free licenses for creators to use so they can make their work available to the public. These licenses allow the creator to give permission for others to use their work under certain conditions.

Creative Commons Licenses material adapted from: “What is Creative Commons” by National Copyright Unit, Copyright Advisory Groups (Schools and TAFEs) licensed under CC BY 4.0

Open Access Publishing

Open Access publishing enables the free, immediate, and online availability of research and scholarly products. Open Access journals have been successfully producing and disseminating high-quality research for over a decade. The Directory of Open Access Journals currently lists over 11,000 vetted Open Access Journals.


There are different business models that support Open Access publishing:

Full Open Access
journals make all of their content immediately openly available at the time of publication.  These journals do not operate on a traditional subscription model but instead levy Article Processing Charges (APCs) to cover publication costs.*
Hybrid Open Access
journals are subscription-based journals which give authors the option to purchase immediate open access to their papers. Only those papers that have paid-Article Processing Charges (APCs) will be openly available at the time of publication. Therefore, hybrid journals are effectively paid twice for their Open Access content.**
Embargoed Open Access
journals are subscription-based journals that make their content openly available after a limited embargo period. In this model, new content is only available to subscribers, while older content is openly accessible. There are no Article Processing Charges (APCs) for embargoed content. 

*Note that not all Full Open Access journals impose Article Processing Charges (APCs).

**Article Processing Charges (APCs) for both Full Open Access and Hybrid Open Access range between $500 and $5,000.