Copyright and Licensing – Part 4

This is the fourth post in a series, by our Editor-in-Chief Tom Olijhoek, which focusses on the details of copyright and licensing, how they are applied to works and which options and best practices DOAJ recommends. You can read all 4 installments in this series here. We also have a help page dedicated to Copyright and Licensing.


In open access publishing, copyright and licensing issues are often not well understood by many and are not clearly described on journal websites. Some publishers we speak to think that they have to pay a fee to establish Creative Commons licensing on their site. Just as DOAJ is a free service, Creative Commons licenses from are also free.

At DOAJ we require open access publishers to use licenses for publications, and we recommend Creative Commons licenses as the best practice because these are free licenses tailor-made to meet the needs of open access. Publishers are also allowed to describe their own licenses as long as these comply and match Creative Commons licensing terms.

We recommend that publishers leave the copyright with the authors. Although this is not a requirement for inclusion in DOAJ nor for using Creative commons licenses, we think that authors should retain their rights, including their copyright for their work. Copyright is part of the larger framework of intellectual property rights that encompasses publishing rights, reproduction in the form of video or audio, patents trademark, research data and more.

All Rights Reserved

A number of publishers use the term ALL RIGHTS RESERVED incorrectly in the context of open access publishing and often in direct opposition to the “open access” state of the content. The us of this term is always wrong in the setting of open access because some rights will always be shared depending on the open access license used.

Copyright Retained by the Author

If authors retain the copyright of their work and publish open access then they can claim copyright and full intellectual property rights with some rights reserved. Under these conditions publishers can then claim rights of first publication and this does not conflict with the copyright remaining with the authors.

For instance, when you publish using CC-BY-NC and retain your copyright, you also reserve the commercial rights exclusively for yourself, unless you sign an agreement with a publisher that transfers commercial rights (some rights reserved).

Copyright Retained by the Author but Author rights restrained

Sometimes publishers seem to think that open access licensing conditions apply only to readers and not to authors. This is wrong. Consider the following case:


The copyright is retained by the author but [publisher]
‘allows authors the use of the final published version of an article (publisher pdf) for self-archiving (author’s personal website) and/or archiving in an institutional repository (on a non-profit server) after an embargo period of 12 months after publication.The published source must be acknowledged and a link to the journal home page or article’s DOI must be set. The author MAY NOT self-archive the articles in public and/or commercial subject based repositories.’
According to the website of the publisher, for works published under a CC BY-NC-ND license:‘users can read, copy and distribute the work in any medium or format for non-commercial purposes, provided the authors and the journal/book are appropriately credited. Under this license, users are not allowed to remix, transform or build upon the published material.’

The policy on author archiving from this publisher is clearly in conflict both with the licensing conditions and with the copyright policy. Even without the embargo clause this policy is wrong, especially since authors who retain the copyright are not bound by the conditions of the license at all: they can do whatever they want with their work (unless they have transferred their commercial rights to the publisher which is not the case here.)

Copyright Transferred to the Publisher

If on the other hand the copyright is transferred to the publisher, the publisher can claim copyright but never ALL RIGHTS RESERVED since all the other (intellectual property) rights remain with the author.

Sometimes the publishers will put a copyright clause in the website, with the intention that this means they claim copyright for the layout and design of the site. This is OK as long as the copyright clause explains this. If site simply states ‘Copyright Society of Physical Sciences’, or something similar, this is not acceptable as it is unclear what the copyright statement applies to.

Copyright Transfer Agreement in conflict with Open Access

In some cases publisher use a copyright transfer agreement that conflicts with open access licensing.

For instance let us regard this case where a CC BY-NC license is used on a site:

‘‘ [you] hereby transfer your copyright to us (the publisher). In particular, this means that you grant us the exclusive right, for the full term of copyright and any renewals/extensions thereof, both to reproduce and distribute your article (including the abstract) ourselves throughout the world in printed, electronic or any other medium”

There is clearly a conflict here since all users under a Creative Commons License have the right to reproduce, distribute etc, so the right of the publishers cannot be exclusive or all rights reserved. The transfer agreement should be corrected by replacing ‘exclusive right’ with ‘non-exclusive right.

Commercial Rights Transferred to the Publisher

If only commercial rights are transferred to the publisher, the author retains (part of) the copyright in addition to  all other intellectual property rights. In this case the publisher cannot claim copyright or ‘all rights reserved.’


‘Authors sign an exclusive license agreement, where authors have copyright but license exclusive rights in their article to the publisher**.

**This includes the right for the publisher to make and authorize commercial use,…

In this particular case, the journal also had a copyright statement that stated that all rights were reserved in the publisher’s favour.

This post is by no means complete The different examples shown are just a number of often encountered cases where copyright and licensing conditions do not match. Other cases with less obvious inconsistencies undoubtedly exist. We invite the reader of this blog post to alert us to such cases.








WANTED Turkish and Farsi/Persian speakers: a call for volunteer DOAJ Associate Editors

UPDATE: Applications are now closed.

DOAJ has a network of 130 skilled volunteers who spend a few hours a week processing new journal applications for us. Would you like to join us? We are now recruiting volunteers who understand Farsi and/or Turkish. (You do not have to be a native speaker.) You must also be proficient in written and spoken English.

As a DOAJ Associate Editor you will be expected to do a few hours of voluntary, unpaid work a week. You will be provided with training materials to help you carry out your duties. The work you do will directly contribute to the quality, reputation and prominence of open access, scholarly publishing across the world.

Requirements of the Role
In your role as DOAJ Associate Editor, you will be guided and supervised by an Editor and a Managing Editor.

Successful candidates will:

  • have a good knowledge about Open Access (OA);
  • be passionate about OA;
  • have a good knowledge about OA developments in scholarly publishing;
  • have a working understanding of OA publishing practices.


In your work you must:

  • be confident working online and have stable access to the internet;
  • support and promote DOAJ and its goals, and be a DOAJ advocate;
  • maintain confidentiality around information to which you have access in the DOAJ database and DOAJ Google Drive, particularly applications you review;
  • assist in evaluating journals suggested to DOAJ in your specialist language;
  • adhere to the recommendations around keeping personal data secure and confidential, as laid out by the DOAJ privacy policy.

Please note that if you are associated in any way with a journal in DOAJ, you may not be selected due to a conflict of interest.

If you wish to apply please complete and submit this form.

At this time, applications are only open to those with the requested languages skills. All other applications will be rejected. We will advertise further volunteering opportunities on this blog so please follow us here or on Twitter. @doajplus

Thank you for considering volunteering for DOAJ!

DOAJ Mission
DOAJ’s mission is to increase the visibility, accessibility, reputation, usage and impact of quality, peer-reviewed, open access scholarly research journals globally, regardless of discipline, geography or language. DOAJ will work with editors, publishers and journal owners to help them understand the value of best practice publishing and standards and apply those to their own operations. DOAJ is committed to being 100% independent and maintaining all of its services and metadata as free to use or reuse for everyone.

’10 web design features that are now browser history’ – or, at least, they should be.

A great blog post from the summer, published on the DataSalon blog and written by Jon Monday, caught our attention recently. Written in celebration of 25 years of the World Wide Web, the blog post looks ‘back on some design features from the early days of the Web’ which have been consigned to “browser history”.

Or at least they should have been.

At DOAJ, we review hundreds of journal applications every month from all corners of the globe, covering every topic imaginable. The applications themselves are always of varying degrees of quality and, sadly, so are the websites they refer to. From mid-December 2017 to mid-September 2018, our Triage function rejected without review 1754 poorly completed applications! Many of the reasons for rejection without review refer directly to a poorly constructed, poorly signposted website.

At least 6 of the items in Jon’s post are still seen by the DOAJ Team on a regular basis: hit counters; guestbooks; blinking text; scrolling text; animated gifs; and under constructions signs. So saying that they have been consigned forever to the bin may not be completely accurate but it certainly is wishful thinking on our part!

Sponsorship model and pricing for 2019

Last year, we launched our new sponsorship model. This was after feedback from existing sponsors that we needed to be clearer about the benefits and costs of sponsorship.

For 2019, after feedback from users, we will no longer be displaying sponsors on our homepage. This will help our homepage to render better on smaller screens.

DOAJ sponsorship costs and benefits for 2019

DOAJ 2019 sponsorship costs and benefits


In 2019, a Gold sponsorship for commercial organisations is £15,000 and £7500 for non-commercial entities.  A Silver sponsorship is £10,000, and £5000 respectively; a Bronze is £5000 and £2500 respectively. If you would like to know what the money is spent on, you can read this publishers report from 2017 (2018’s is coming soon) or this post about our new mission statement which covers the areas on which we are focussing. Alternatively you can send me an email and I would be very happy to give you more information.

If you are interested in becoming a 2019 Sponsor for one of the most important online resources in academic publishing, and in joining our existing group of fantastic sponsors, then please contact me directly: I look forward to hearing from you!