Licensing & copyright


DOAJ recommends the use of Creative Commons licenses to inform readers how published content can be used. We do not specify which license should be used. You may select the Creative Commons license that best meets the needs of the journal, or give authors the option to choose a license for their paper.

You may not add to or adapt the terms of a Creative Commons license. This means you cannot impose restrictions on authors or users that conflict with the provisions of the license. Creative Commons licenses state clearly that "For the avoidance of doubt, where Exceptions and Limitations apply to Your use, this Public License does not apply".

In some cases, we will accept a publisher's own license if it is broadly equivalent to one of the Creative Commons licenses.

The initial copyright of a paper is held by the authors (or their employer, in some instances). When publishing that paper the copyright may continue to be held by the author, or can be licensed or transferred to the publisher.

DOAJ recommends that journals allow authors to retain the copyright of their papers without restrictions. Authors will then grant the publisher the right of first publication, and other non-exclusive publishing rights.

Even when the author retains copyright, restrictions may sometimes be imposed by the publisher:

  • The publisher requires exclusive publishing rights. This means that the author no longer holds copyright without restrictions.
  • The publisher requires a transfer or exclusive license of commercial rights. This means the author no longer holds copyright without restrictions.

Copyright terms must not contradict the licensing terms or the terms of the open access policy.

“All rights reserved” is never appropriate for open access content.

"Fair use" is not open access and we do not accept journals with these restrictions.

Author rights

The terms of the Creative Commons (or other) license do not apply to the copyright holder. This means that when the author retains copyright without restrictions, the license applies to the readers and the publisher.

But the license applies to the readers and the author when:

  • copyright has been transferred to the publisher
  • the author retains copyright and grants exclusive publishing rights to the publisher
  • the author retains copyright, transfers or grants exclusive commercial rights to the publisher, and a non-commercial license is used

Further reading

Further reading and more examples are available as a downloadable presentation.

In other languages

French - hosted by Érudit

Version history

This is Version 1 of our Licensing and copyright page.