Displaying licensing information

Topic lead: Solange Santos, Rebecca Wojturska
Last updated: 05/06/2023
Page: https://www.oajournals-toolkit.org/policies/displaying-licensing-information

Licensing is important to set out the reuse terms for published articles. The most common licenses used in open access journals are Creative Commons licenses, which can be displayed visually, using a logo, via text as well as through structured and machine-readable metadata.

As academic journals play a critical role in disseminating research findings, it is essential for them to promote the ethical use of published content. To achieve this, journals should effectively display licensing information, which clarifies the terms under which published articles can be used, distributed and adapted by others. To support easy and lawful reuse, journals should ideally adopt standardised licences, of which Creative Commons is a widely used example.

Authors are ultimately responsible for making choices about copyright and licensing, but journals need to offer the infrastructure to implement those choices. Part of this should be in the form of helpful web design and user experience, but training and awareness raising are also important. Following author decisions around copyright and licensing, journals should also be prepared to pursue legal action in cases of non compliance or misuse.

Displaying licensing information for published articles

The chosen licence should be prominently displayed on individual article pages in all formats (e.g. HTML, pdf), ideally near the title and author information. This allows readers to quickly identify the terms under which they can use the content. Additionally, providing a link to the full text of the licence is important to help users understand the specific rights and limitations associated with the work.

Furthermore, incorporating licensing information into the article’s metadata ensures that this information is easily discoverable by search engines, databases and other indexing services. This enhances the visibility of the article and helps users understand the terms of use when they encounter the content through search results or third-party platforms.

When users download articles in pdf or other formats, it is crucial that the licensing information is included within the file itself. This ensures that the terms of use remain clear, even when the content is accessed offline or shared through other channels. In addition to the main article, licensing information should also be displayed for any supplementary materials, such as datasets, images, videos, or code.

Monitoring and enforcing compliance

Journals should regularly review their licensing practices to ensure that they align with industry standards and best practices. They should also be prepared to address any instances of non-compliance or misuse of published content by working with authors, institutions and other stakeholders to resolve issues and maintain the integrity of the scholarly record.

Displaying licensing and copyright for the journal’s website

Journals should be aware that there is a difference between the licence terms applied to individual articles and the licence terms applied to their website. For example, an open access journal may state ‘All rights reserved’ in its footer, with reference to the website’s design, branding and overall guidance or policies. As long as an appropriate licence is displayed clearly on individual articles, then this is not problematic from the point of view of open access good practice.

However, should an open access journal only state ‘All rights reserved’  and not display licensing information on individual articles, this would create ambiguity for readers and potential reusers and is likely to be in breach of the choice made by the author as part of the publishing workflow.

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