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Open Research

Open licences

Traditional licences, generally restrict rights to the copyright owner and/or content provider. 

Open licences are about enabling other people to reuse the content.

An Open Licence is used to grant certain permissions to the readers of your work and  make it easier for other people to understand what they are allowed to do with the material. For example the license may grant people permission to use and share the work with others as long as they acknowledge the source of the work. 

An Open Licence will usually be applied to your work when you publish your outputs as 'Gold' Open Access.

Copyright and rights retention

Commonly when you publish your work, you will be asked to sign a Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA).  The agreement transfers the ownership of the copyright in the work to the publisher. The publisher may grant you permission to do certain things with your work, but there are likely to be restrictions on what you can do.  By signing a CTA you may waive all your rights to reuse your work.  For example, you may not be able to reproduce your work for teaching purposes or adapt a paper as a book chapter. The publisher may also insist on an embargo period before your accepted manuscript can be made Open Access on a repository, such as SHURA.

Some publishers offer a 'Licence to publish' instead of a copyright transfer agreement.  With this type of agreement, the copyright may be retained by you as the author with the publisher being granted a licence to publish the article.  However, a licence to publish will usually still include restrictions on what you can do with your work and how you can reuse it.

If you publish your work as 'Gold' Open Access, where the published version will be immediately available Open Access on the publisher's site, you will retain your copyright and your research will usually be distributed under the terms of one of the Creative Commons Licences.  Your work can then be reused as defined by the licence.

If your work is published in a subscription journal and is not 'Gold' Open Access, your route to Open Access is by self-archiving your work on the SHU institutional repository SHURA.  However, you will usually have signed a copyright transfer agreement or a licence to publish.  This may mean that your publisher restricts which version of your work can be used on SHURA and may require an embargo period before the full text can be accessed by all. You should still deposit your work using Elements, as soon as possible after acceptance the the Library Team will check your publisher's requirements.

There are initiatives which intend to make it easier for authors to retain copyright and to share their work as Open Access immediately on publication. They are based on the principle that the author has a prior agreement with their funder or employer which takes legal precedence over any copyright transfer agreement signed with the publisher.

The UK Scholarly Communications Licence (UK-SCL)

This is a model open access policy with a standard set of licence terms. It is designed for adoption by UK HE Institutions, but has not yet been implemented anywhere in the UK. Further information can be found on the UK-SCL website

Plan S rights retention strategy

Plan S is an initiative supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funding organisations including the UKRI and the Wellcome Trust.  It will come into effect on 1 January 2021. Part of this initiative is a rights retention strategy. The following web page shows you when particular funders will begin adopting the rights retention strategy: implementation roadmap of cOAlition S organisations.

For more information, please contact the Library Research Support Team (, phone:0114 225 3852).

Software licenses

The Open Source Initiative  describes the main Open Source licenses for software.

Creative Commons Licenses

If you publish your work on an Open Access basis or make your research data open, it will usually be distributed under the terms of one of the Creative Commons Licenses.  The Creative Commons Licenses are summarised below, but please check the full details to fully understand each licence.

This license lets others distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.

This license lets others distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


This license allows others to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon your workl in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to you

This license lets others copy and distribute your work, including commercially; however, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form, and credit must be provided to you.

This license lets others distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

This license is the most restrictive license, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

What do I need to do?

When you publish Open Access, your publisher may ask you which Creative Commons License you wish to apply to your work. Bear in mind that your funder may require your work to be distributed under a particular Creative Commons license.  For example, if you have Research Council funding, your work must be published with CC-BY license.

If other parties were involved in creating the output, you should consult them and you may need to obtain their permission.

Most publishers will add the license information to publications for you.  This information is usually provided on the landing page and on the published version (often a PDF).

If your are publishing your work yourself, you can add a rights and license statement. Only the copyright holder or someone with express permission from the copyright holder can apply a license. 

If your work contains third party copyright material you must ensure that you have permission to use the material and that you have the copyright holder's permission to make their work available under a Creative Commons licence.

Make sure you fully understand any Creative Commons licence you intend to use: Choosing a licence and the Licence optionsPlease also remember that Creative Commons licences are irrevocable and cannot be cancelled.