How to Use Creative Commons Licenses for Your Academic Papers

Oct 22, 2021 Ver este post en Español

Updated March 1, 2022

The role of intellectual property in our daily lives is crucial, and researchers have long dealt with clashes between ways to further knowledge and the economic realities of publishing and funding research. As such, copyright comes into play. And as the Open Access movement gains more and more momentum, so do copyright licenses.

This article discusses what Creative Commons licenses are and how they’re used, how to choose the correct license for your research, and why these licenses are important for researchers. To conclude, we’ll mention how Orvium encourages using Creative Commons licenses.

What are Creative Commons Licenses and How are They Used?

Copyright limits the reuse of content. Creative Commons (CC) licenses work alongside copyright, with a “some rights reserved” approach. They help individuals and groups distribute their content or research freely while still legally protecting themselves and their intellectual property rights. They’re free of charge and allow authors to specify which rights they waive or reserve for the benefit of other recipients or creators. The creator can choose which license they want to use. Others who wish to use the work can then adapt, share, or sell the work under specific conditions.

What Is the Correlation to Open Access?

Creative Commons licenses were influenced by the open-source movement (an open-source community of people working with and supporting the use of open-source computer software). Furthermore, CC Licenses work great for Open Access (OA) when it comes to creative work containing text, images, video, or audio.  

Since traditional copyright is incompatible with Open Access, the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) explains that copyright’s role in OA gives authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be correctly cited and acknowledged. Overall, CC Licenses act as a useful and powerful tool for Open Access. Let’s see how to choose the correct one for you.

The Six Different CC Licenses

The below six licenses take the “some rights reserved” approach:


Alongside the “some right reserved” licenses, there are also two additional tools related to the public domain:

  • CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) - “no rights reserved”, specifically for authors who don’t mind not receiving credit for their work (even more open than CC BY)
  • Public Domain Mark - “no known copyright”, work that is no longer copyright restricted (work that was published a very long time ago).

How to Choose the Correct License For Your Research Articles

Most Open Access publishers use a CC license for the articles they publish, notifying readers and other authors of their respective rights. The licenses entail many user rights, including whether or not articles can be modified or shared commercially. Unfortunately, most authors or publishers can’t justify the license they choose, sometimes because they don’t understand the difference between them or simply because it’s the same license the previous author used.

Thankfully, CC licenses are versatile, covering a wide array of use cases. This versatility makes them the perfect choice for OA journals. Researchers and academic publishers who want to submit to an Open Access journal or repository but don’t know what that means in terms of their rights can follow the below steps:

1. Get started by choosing your conditions. CC provides four options to choose from:

  1. BY (Attribution) - the author or journal must receive appropriate attribution
  2. SA (ShareAlike) - if adaptations are made, the resulting work must be licensed under the same terms or those of a compatible license
  3. NC (NonCommercial) - you can only use this work for non-commercial purposes
  4. ND (NoDerivatives) - you can only share the original, whole work. Anyone may still modify the work, but you cannot share the modified version.

You don’t need to choose only one condition, you may choose however many apply to your specific use case (which conditions you want to apply to your article usage). Refer to the CC license table mentioned above to see how your choice of condition(s) can help you choose one of the six licenses.

2. Remember that CC licenses don’t apply where copyright doesn’t apply. CC licenses have the same limitations regarding fair use and the public domain since they work alongside copyright. If a copyrighted work falls under fair use, fair dealing, or another exception, you may reuse it without the creator’s permission. Therefore, the same rule applies to CC licenses. Additionally, a CC license can’t apply to work in the public domain because they aren’t subject to copyright law.

3. If you’re still unsure about which license to choose, use one of the following tools:

Why are CC Licenses Important For Researchers?

CC licenses give creators a clear and standardized way of granting permission to others so their work can be used, shared, and adapted. And in an era of tremendous data production and international data sharing, making research truly open for reuse and data mining is of the utmost importance. Just take a look at our Data Sharing and Covid-19 article to see how and why Open Access to data is the future of data sharing.

A crucial point for researchers is to make data free without getting hung up on which type of license to use. The CC-BY, the least restrictive license, is the most commonly used by OA publishers. OA publisher PLOS One and OA repository Orvium believe that CC licenses should be the standard for the Open Access movement.


Everyone can choose how their articles are shared or used with Creative Commons. Researchers can have peace of mind knowing that anyone can read and share their published articles while they retain copyright. In this way, researchers and like-minded individuals can work towards the ultimate goal of widely distributing knowledge and academic results.

Orvium understands this and offers a one-stop shop for researchers, publishers, reviewers, and any of their Open Access needs. Why should you choose to publish your research with an OA platform, you ask? Because openness is essential in research.

See more reasons in our Why Choose Open Access Platforms article. Also, make sure to check out our platform to know more about OA and everything related to it.