Published 21 June 2023

Choosing a Creative Commons licence

Copyright and licensing are two important considerations when publishing an open access book. There are different Creative Commons (CC) licences which allow for your open access book to be used and shared in different ways. Sometimes your funder will specify which licence type the open access book must be published under so it is best to check this first. In addition, some publishers do not offer all of the various licence types, or they might charge a different rate for the book processing charge (BPC) depending on the licence type you require. It is also worth checking who would retain copyright.

Choosing a a Creative Commons licence

Creative Commons (CC) licences are made up of four ’conditions that can be mixed and matched to create six different licence combinations. The licences also come in three formats: human-readable, lawyer-readable, and machine-readable.1

Below are the four different conditions, each starting with its two-letter acronym and the icon which represents it:

  • BY BY – Credit must be given to the creator
  • ND ND – No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted
  • NC NC – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted
  • SA SA – Adaptations must be shared under the same terms

Every Creative Commons licence requires the user who wishes to reuse your work to attribute it to you. Therefore, all CC licences begin with CC BY, indicating that credit must be given to the creator. CC BY is the first and most permissive of the six licensing options.

Adding one or more of the three remaining conditions will result in a more restrictive licence:

  • CC BY-NC means that users can make use of the work (including copying, distributing, adapting and building upon the work), but only for noncommercial purposes and as long as attribution is given to the creator.
  • CC BY-ND means that users can copy and distribute the work, including for commercial use, but only in unadapted form and as long as attribution is given to the creator.
  • CC BY-NC-ND combines both restrictions, allowing for copying and distributing of the work, but not for adapting the work and only for noncommercial purposes, again with the requirement of attributing the creator.

The final condition SA refers to ‘share alike’, which requires the user to make adaptations of the work available under the same Creative Commons terms. This results in the two remaining licensing options: CC BY-SA and CC BY-NC-SA (as SA refers to adaptations it can not be used in combination with ND, which prohibits adaptations).

Creative Commons helps to select the right licence type with an interactive tool, based on just two questions about how you want your work to be used and shared.

Questions to consider2

The Authors’ Alliance ‘Understanding Open Access’ document is another useful resource to help guide you through the decision-making process. It discusses questions such as:

  1. How open do you want to make your work?
  2. What rights do you want to licence to the public?
  3. Do you want to put conditions on the use of your work?

Finally, remember to check what licence type your funder requires, if any, and which licences each publisher can offer you.

Creative Commons License
This article is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Last edited on 21 June 2023, at 08:58 (+0000)