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Copyright and licensing

The Getting Found, Staying Found, Increasing Impact guide contains a comprehensive introduction into copyright for publishing. The below chapter is adapted from the University of Toronto Libraries’ Journal Production Services Publishing Guide. It should help editors decide on the copyright/licensing policy to adapt for the journal and guide them where to enter appropriate information in OJS.

There are two primary copyright holding models journals should consider:

  1. Author retains copyright
  2. Author transfers copyright to the journal/publisher

Many OA journals permit authors to retain copyright, which means the author retains the right to reuse, distribute, re-publish, etc. The author will often license the right of first publication to the journal/publisher, which essentially means that the journal retains the right to be the first venue where the work is published (sometimes for a specific amount of time).

Benefits #

  • Authors can reuse their work elsewhere in the future.
  • Some authors may be protective about their intellectual property and value retaining their copyright.

Drawbacks #

  • Journals will have to seek the author’s permission if they want to republish or translate the work, or use it for purposes not outlined in the license. This, however, can be addressed by publishing under a Creative Commons license as explained below.

Sample license wording #

Here is a sample license statement that includes a Creative Commons license and the right of first publication:

Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgment of the work’s authorship and initial publication in this journal.

Provided they are the owners of the copyright to their work, authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal’s published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository, in a journal or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgment of its initial publication in this journal.

Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories, disciplinary repositories, or on their website) prior to and during the submission process.

For another example see this sample publishing agreement at Michigan publishing.

Depending on the jurisdiction, a license may or may not require a formal signature. In North America it is sufficient for the author to accept it by agreeing to publish with the journal.

This model is more common with traditional subscription-based journals and less common for open access journals.

In this model, the author transfers the copyright to the journal. This means the journal is now responsible for administrative aspects of managing permissions, can decide on a distribution model/license and can choose to license certain rights back to the author.

Benefits #

  • Journals do not need to seek authors’ permission if they want to reuse the work, grant licensing rights to a third party or transfer copyright to the new publisher.

Drawbacks #

  • Authors may be limited in their ability to re-use their own work. For example, authors would retain the ability to apply user’s rights such as fair dealing in certain circumstances, but would no longer be able to authorize the use of their work by others.
  • Any permission that readers seek for the article will have to go through the journal. This is an additional administrative task.

A sample statement for journals following this model could look like this:

We, [the author(s)] by signing this form hereby assign worldwide copyright of the Work in all forms and media (whether now known, or hereafter developed), in all languages for the full term of copyright and all extensions and renewals thereof.

For more examples of copyright and license policies from university and library publishing see Unit 7 Resource: Example External Copyright Policies by Educopia Library Publishing Curriculum

Creative Commons licenses #

If you publish an OA journal, it is not sufficient to simply make articles public. To facilitate scholarly sharing and re-use it is important to clarify how materials can be re-used. Creative Commons (CC) licenses provide such clarification in a human-readable (license text & logo) and machine-readable (metadata for indexing) formats. Creative Commons licenses determine what readers may do with the journals’ content, and how copyright holders wish their content to be used. There are several licenses to choose from with various levels of “openness” and limitations for reuse, and the choice depends on what the journal thinks is best for its authors and its readership. Here is an overview of the various CC licenses:

Graph of license types arranged from the most free to the least free.

Source: Adapted from “How to attribute Creative Commons Photos” by Foter. Licensed under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 license.

If you receive funding, be sure to check whether the funding policy requires distribution under a particular CC license. For more information on CC licenses, see Getting Found Staying Found Guide - Creative Commons Licenses and Creative Commons FAQs.

There are 3 places in OJS where you can add the above information, depending on where you would like it to appear.

1: Designate the copyright holder and add license terms that will appear on the article page.

Enter this information under Settings > Distribution > License. For additional details about this section see Learning OJS 3: Distributions Settings - License.

Screenshot of OJS 3.2 Distribution Settings.

The above information will be automatically displayed on each article page:

Screenshot of display of licensing information in OJS 3 public interface.

If your journal distributes articles under different licenses, you will be able to override the above information per article in the Permissions & Disclosure section of the Publication tab:

Screenshot of display of Permissions & Disclosure settings in OJS 3.2

2: Add the copyright notice for authors to accept during submission and display in Author Guidelines.

This statement can be added in Settings > Workflow > Submission > Author Guidelines > Copyright Notice.

Screenshot of display of Permissions & Disclosure settings in OJS 3.2

The statement will appear publicly on the Author Guidelines page to inform potential authors of the terms they will be agreeing to:

Screenshot of Author Guidelines setting in OJS 3.2

A checkbox to agree to this statement will be presented to the author to accept during submission:

Screenshot of copyright statement acknowledgement in OJS 3.2

Depending on the jurisdiction, a copyright transfer may need to be formally signed whereas a license may or may not require a signature. In North America it is sufficient for the author to accept the license by agreeing to publish with the journal.

3: Add copyright and licensing information in the article galley.

It is important to display copyright and licensing information on the article document itself, so anyone who may read, save or share it would still know how it can be used.

Screenshot of Creative Commons License source information in PDF Galley

Source: McCormick, A., Adams, S. A., Dunbar, H., & Mclean-Plunkett, S. (2020). Teaching Copyright Law through Participatory Involvement in an Unconference Setting. Journal of Copyright in Education & Librarianship, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.17161/jcel.v4i1.13283