Both Creative Commons and Open Access are invaluable tools for allowing access to materials that authors want to make available. However, each has a very different way of functioning. Here is a summary of what to look for to tell if a document has a Creative Commons license or is marked as Open Access, and what each means for the document’s use.
Creative Commons Licensing
The copyright symbol is well known, and the symbol for Creative Commons licenses is a variant on it. Instead of one C inside the circle, there are two. Each license will have this double-C symbol in it, with identifying marks for the type of license it is. For a full list of license types and symbols, check out the Creative Commons website. These licenses let the copyright holder of a work choose to license it for use by whoever follows the guidelines set out in the license, which range from allowing everything as long as there is attribution to only allowing sharing with attribution and restricting commercial uses or alterations. The system is very flexible and allows creators to choose what best fits their needs and the type of work they want to license. A significant benefit to the Creative Commons system is that search engines like Google can filter for specific types of Creative Commons licenses, which is how you can filter for usage rights in an image search.
The Open Access system is specifically related to academic publishing, and is intended more to allow users to read the articles and learn from them than to allow for reuse. The symbol is an open padlock in either orange or green. The orange symbol is used when the article is published in an open-access journal. The green symbol is used when the author chooses to make their manuscript (not the published version) available in an institutional repository or something like it. Functionally, they are nearly identical for the purposes of reading and research, but the green symbol can make it more difficult to reuse a published dataset than the orange symbol. Some journals are hybrid open-access and restricted, meaning that you need to check each individual article for the symbol.
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