“Open Access” is a catch-all term covering both Gratis and Libre Open Access. For DOAJ, Open Access is only when digital content is freely available online AND user rights and the terms of copyright are defined.
More than 20 years ago, Open Access was understood to mean content that was available for free without a price attached. This kind of Open Access is now referred to as Gratis Open Access*.
Over time, as the concept of open access became more widely accepted, there was a need to be clearer about what users were allowed to do with the content. This meant that the users’ rights needed to be clearly stated. This kind of Open Access has no price barriers and removes at least some of the permission barriers. It is referred to as Libre Open Access*.
This is where things start to get a little bit more complicated. Because different levels of permissions for reuse exist, like commercial use, creating translations etc (as indicated by the six different Creative Commons licenses, for example), different variants of Libre Open Access also exist.**
At DOAJ, we believe that for Open Access to work effectively, user rights, through licensing, and copyright ownership need to be clear.
For this reason DOAJ only accepts journals that operate a form of Libre Open Access.
Finally, although we recommend strongly that copyright of published articles is retained by the authors, we will accept journals where copyright is transferred fully or in part to the publisher, as long as articles are licensed using an open license.
* for an extensive discussion of the terms Gratis and Libre Open Access, which were introduced by Peter Suber, see http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:4322580
** The BOAI definition of Open Access is just one variant of Libre Open Access, namely the least restrictive variant corresponding to a CC BY user license. For this reason our new application form (Nov 2020) no longer refers to compliance with the BOAI definition.