© or CC?
It used to be that the most common thing was signing a so called “Copyright Transfer Agreement” (CTA) when you submitted your article. In such an agreement the economic rights to the work are transferred to the publisher. It means only the publisher is allowed to share and publish the work, both in whole and in parts. Exactly what the author is allowed to do with it (e.g. publish it in a thesis or use it in lectures) is usually written out in the fine print.
It’s important to consider which rights you give up if you publish in a journal that uses a Copyright Transfer Agreement. If you want to use an article’s figures in a poster, or the text in a collection or thesis this has to be permitted by the agreement. Otherwise you will have to pay the publisher to reuse your own work.
More open ways of publishing require other licenses
Today it is also common to encounter a CC license, where CC stands for “Creative Commons”. CC is a non-profit organisation which was founded as a reaction against copyright. They have developed different kinds of licenses that creators can use so that their work can be shared and used more freely.
When it comes to open access, a copyright license doesn’t fulfil the requirements to make scientific publications fully open and accessible. Instead open access journals use Creative Commons licenses. The licenses come with different levels of control depending on which version the creator chooses. The most permissive version is CC-BY, where “by” simply stands for “created by”. The work may be freely shared and transformed, but anyone using it must always attribute it to the original creator. The most restrictive license is the one where you add “ND” and “NC”. ND stands for “no derivates” (e.g. translations of texts or remixes of songs). NC stands for “non-commercial”, and means the work can’t be used in any commercial context (e.g. a collection of texts sold in a university bookstore.)
Text: Signe Wulund