Frequently Asked Questions


Does membership of OASPA require a specific type of license?

At OASPA, one of the criteria for membership is that a publisher must use a liberal license that encourages the reuse and distribution of content  We strongly encourage publishers to choose a Creative Commons license and recommend (but currently do not require) the use of the CC-BY license wherever possible.  As emphasized by the early declarations on open access in Budapest, Bethesda and Berlin, open access is about more than access – open access removes access and reuse barriers, and thus has the potential to transform the literature into a much more powerful resource for research, education and innovation.

Why does OASPA recommend the Creative Commons licenses?

To fully realise the potential of open access to research literature, barriers to reuse need to be removed. The Creative Commons (CC) licenses have emerged as an effective legal instrument to achieve this. Instead of transferring rights exclusively to publishers (the approach usually followed in subscription publishing), authors grant a non-exclusive license to the publisher to distribute the work, and all users and readers are granted rights to reuse the work.

We encourage the use of CC licenses, not only because they are very well established legal tools, but because they have the benefits of simplicity, machine-readability and interoperability. Importantly, many elements of internet infrastructure ‘understand’ CC licensing, and can display and filter content appropriately, based on this machine-readable license information (eg Flickr; see, in a way that is unlikely to be practical for ad hoc, publisher-specific licenses.

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Why does OASPA encourage use of the CC-BY license in particular?

Given the ways in which additional restrictions can limit the reach and impact of research outputs, OASPA therefore strongly encourages the use of the CC-BY license, rather than one of the more restrictive licenses or indeed a license that is ‘functionally equivalent’ to CC-BY.

CC-BY allows for unrestricted reuse of content, subject only to the requirement that the source work is appropriately attributed.  The CC-BY license thereby requires that authors are given appropriate credit for their work, as explained in a recent post from Creative Commons (

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Does OASPA allow organizations to be members if they use any other types of Creative Commons license?

OASPA will currently also admit members who have a CC-BY-NC policy, whereby they permit re-use for non-commercial (hence ‘NC’) purposes.  OASPA recognizes and accepts that some members may impose restrictions on reuse, such as commercial reuse, but require that any restrictions must be clearly indicated

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Why is CC-BY preferable to CC-BY-NC?

There are two key problems with a no commercial use restriction.The first is that the definition of what constitutes commercial use is necessarily fuzzy, and so any license which restricts commercial use creates a haze of doubt around various uses that may or may not be at risk of being considered commercial, and in doing so acts as a general discouragement to reuse(

In the case of scientific research, work is not funded by taxpayers and companies purely to serve as a resource to further academic discussion and debate. A major justification for the large-scale research investment is that it will produce new knowledge, the application of which will help to develop and enrich our society. Enabling the commercial sector to have access to and freedom to reuse research literature for knowledge discovery and the development of tools and services (as exemplified by the human genome project) is a natural way to seek to achieve these ends. See also: NC considered harmful; Why Full Open Access Matters.

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Why doesn’t OASPA allow CC-BY-SA or CC-BY-NC-ND licenses?

Each type of restriction has its uses, for certain types of content and certain types of sharing. But the emerging consensus on the adoption of CC-BY reflects the fact that any of these restrictions needlessly limits the possible reuse of published research.

CC-BY-SA: Share-Alike. Material distributed under a share-alike license can be used to create and distribute derivative works, but only if those works are shared under the same Share-Alike license. Such licenses are sometime referred to as Viral licenses, as “the licenses spread a continuing use of the licenses in its derivatives”. However, while such licenses can be extremely helpful in building up a collection of content, they also have downsides in terms of the limitations they place on reuse.For example, material distributed within a Share-Alike article could only be combined and redistributed with other share-alike content. In contrast, CC-BY content can be combined with any content, and redistributed according to the terms of that other content, as long as CC-BY’s own attribution requirement is respected.This makes CC-BY something like a Universal Donor blood-type in that it has maximal compatibility.

CC-BY-NC-ND: No Derivatives. Derived use is fundamental to the way in which scholarly research builds on what has gone before. One of the many benefits of open access publishing is that elements such as figures from a published research article can be reused, with attribution, as part of teaching material, or in other published works, without needing to request permission of the publisher. Similarly, article translations, image libraries, case report databases, text-mining enhancements and data visualizations are all examples of how additional value can be created by allowing derivative use.

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Where can I find out more about Creative Commons licenses?

Creative Commons explain the difference between the licenses here and have their own very helpful FAQ for anyone who needs further information on how the licenses work, which to choose and how to display the license

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I have chosen to use a CC-BY license.  How do I display this on my website and published articles?

For further details see

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Which organisations support the use of the CC-BY license?

There have been recent moves in the UK by the Wellcome Trust and the Research Councils UK to mandate use of the CC-BY license when funds are used to pay for open access publishing.  This resource from the Wellcome Trust provides some further explanation and answers some frequently raised concerns:

Open-access publishers such as PLOS, BioMed Central, Hindawi, Copernicus, eLife, and now PeerJ, along with many other organisations, all strongly support the use of CC-BY as the default for open scholarly content. Some of the major subscription-based publishers are also adopting CC-BY:

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Will OASPA make any changes to its licensing policy in the future?

Possibly.  OASPA continuously reviews all policies but has no immediate plans to change the current membership requirements.

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