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Copyright & Licensing

Copyright  & Fair Use

University of California scholars are both creators and users of copyrighted works. Under US law, copyright owners control the copying and distribution of their works, as well as the creation of derivative works like translations.

Please note:

Copyright does not protect ideas or facts – only particular expressions of them that show sufficient creativity to be considered “works of authorship.” This means that readers can use published data without permission.

Many common uses of copyrighted work are protected in the United States by “fair use,” such as quoting someone else’s work to criticize or comment on it or providing a limited number of copies to students for assigned reading.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons licenses allow copyright owners to clearly state that others are welcome make copies of their works, distribute them, and sometimes make adaptations like translations, under certain circumstances, as determined by the license chosen.

Users choosing a Creative Commons license can select from these terms:

  • by.large Attribution: You let others copy, distribute, and display your copyrighted work – but only if they give you appropriate credit. All Creative Commons licenses have this requirement, which does not exist independently in US copyright law.
  • nc.large Noncommercial: You let others copy, distribute, and display (and possibly adapt) your work but for noncommercial purposes only.
  • nd.large No Derivative Works: You let others copy, distribute, and display only identical copies of your work, not translations or other derivative works based upon it.
  • sa.large Share Alike: You allow others to distribute adaptations, translations, or other derivative works only under a license identical to the license that you chose for your work.

Creative Commons licenses are particularly relevant to open access scholarly publishing because the major definitions of open access (from the Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin, statements) all include the right of readers not only to read open access literature but also to copy and distribute it.

Open Data Commons

Open Data Commons licenses are designed to meet the specific needs of data and databases. Data made available under one of these licenses is free for anyone to use. If you want to release your data under one of these licenses, you can choose whether you want to dedicate the data/database to the public domain, require users to give you credit, or require users to give you credit and use the same license as you.

Don’t Create Your Own License!

Some copyright owners would like to allow some commercial uses but not others, or they find that existing licenses don’t match exactly what they’d like in other ways and are tempted to write their own description of what they would like others to be able to do with their work.

Standard licenses like the ones mentioned above have been reviewed by teams of lawyers, so their legal language is sound. These licenses are widely used, and people increasingly understand what they mean. They are machine readable, and there are only a few choices, so large amounts of content can be grouped together and treated in the same way. A unique license created for one-time use has none of these benefits and many potential pitfalls.