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Open Access: Home

Quick Links

  • ScholarWorks@UMBC, a part of the Maryland Shared Open Access Repository (MD-SOAR)  is powered by DSpace and is open to anyone affiliated with UMBC (faculty, staff, students, or groups/organizations) as a place to capture, store, index, preserve and redistribute materials in digital formats that may be useful for educational, scholarly, research or historical purposes.

Books about Open Access

License for Cornell University Content

Except for the sections on Creative Commons Licenses, the Public Domain, and Copyright, this Libguide Page  has been borrowed from the Cornell University Library Open Access Publishing: What is Open Access? page.It's licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

License for Loyola Notre Dame Content

Content for the sections on Creative Commons Licenses, the Public Domain, and Copyright have been borrowed from the Loyola Notre Dame Library Copyright Information Center Research Guide and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Open Access Explained! (video)

Defining Open Access

Open access (OA) refers to freely available, digital, online information. Open access scholarly literature is free of charge and often carries less restrictive copyright and licensing barriers than traditionally published works for both the users and the authors. 

While OA is a newer form of scholarly publishing, many OA journals comply with well-established peer-review processes and maintain high publishing standards.



Types of Open Access

Green vs. Gold vs. Diamond


Green OA publishing refers to the self-archiving of published or pre-publication works for free public use. Authors provide access to preprints or post-prints (with publisher permission) in an institutional or disciplinary archive such as ScholarWorks@UMBC and

 Gold OA publishing refers to works published open access on a journal or publisher's website. Authors pay an article processing charge (APC). Examples of Gold OA include PLOS (Public Library of Science) and BioMed Central. Hybrid journals are subscription journals with an open access option for individual articles. 

 Diamond OA publishing refers to works published open access on a journal or publisher's website  and authors do not pay an article processing charge (APC). Examples of Diamond OA include The Peer Community Journal and The Southwest Journal of Pulmonary, Critical Care, & Sleep.



Gratis vs. Libre



  • Gratis OA is information that is available free of charge, while some copyright and licensing restrictions may still apply.
  • Libre OA is information that is free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restriction.
  • While 'free' implies that the information does not cost anything to access, remember that OA publishing still often involves a cost to the author to publish the work.

Creative Commons

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that has created licenses that work in conjunction with copyright law to allow creators to specify how they will allow others to use their works without seeking permission. You can use works licensed under Creative Commons without seeking permission from the copyright holder as long as you follow the license terms. You may also choose to license your own works with a Creative Commons license in order to allow others to use them.

Creative Commons licenses are legally recognized licenses. They do not supersede copyright. All copyright laws including the ability to use works under fair use still apply. However, the licenses allow copyright holders to extend beyond copyright limitations to allow others to do such things as copy, reuse, remix, edit, share, and build upon their works.

For more information on Creative Commons visit their website.

Creative Commons License Types

Attribution (CC BY)

The Attribution only license allows others to do whatever they want with a work including using it for commercial puproses as long as they attribute it back to the original creator. It is the least restrictive of the Creative Commons licenses.

Attribution ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

The Attribution ShareAlike license allows others to do whatever they want with a work including using it for commercial purposes as long as they attribute the original work back to the creator and license any new works based upon the original work under the same Creative Commons license.

Attribution-No Derivatives (CC BY-ND)

The Attribution-No Derivatives license allows others to copy and share a work even for commercial purposes. However, they must not change the work in any way, and they must attribute it back to the original creator.

Attribution-NonCommerical (CC BY-NC)

The Attribution-NonCommerical license others others to do whatever they want with a work as long as it is not for commercial purposes and they attribute the work back to the original creator.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

The Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license allows others to do whatever they want with a work as long as it is not for commercial purposes. They must also attribute the work back to the original creator, and if they create any new works based on the original work they must license their works under the same Creative Commons license.

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)

The Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license is the most restrictive of the Creative Commons licenses. It allows others to copy or share the work without making any changes for non-commerical purposes as long as they attribute it back to the original creator.


The CC0 license attempts to allow creators to completely relinquish their copyrights. Many copyright laws including the United States' automatically grant copyright whether or not a creator requests it. The CC0 license lets a creator indicate that that they are not reserving any of their rights under copyright law, thus anyone can use the work in any way that they wish. Some legal jurisdictions may not allow for works to be entered into the public domain before their copyright term has expired. The CC0 license indicates that creators will treat their works as if they are in the public domain even when the law does not allow them to be.


For information on attribution and examples, see Creative Common's wiki page "Best Practices for Attribution."

Also Available for Free: Works in the Public Domain

Public domain works are not protected by copyright because their copyright term has expired or they fall within a category of works that are not subject to copyright law such as U.S. Federal Government Works. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission. More information on the public domain is available here.


Works that are not open access or in the public domain are protected by copyright. 

Copyright is a set of rights provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship.” This protection is available to both published and unpublished works that are fixed in a tangible medium. Copyright does not protect ideas; it protects the expression of ideas. 

The law gives the owner of copyright the following exclusive rights:

• To reproduce the work (i.e. to make copies);
• To prepare derivative works (i.e. to make a movie from a book or to translate a work into another language);
• To distribute copies publicly;
• To perform the work publicly (i.e. a play or movie);
• To display the work publicly; and
• In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

The owner of the copyright may transfer all or part of these rights to others. 

Subject to some exceptions described in the Copyright Guide, if a person exercises any of these rights in another’s work without permission, the person may be liable for copyright infringement.

More information on copyright is available here.

UMBC Licensed Materials

It's important to note that materials licensed and paid for by the library for everyone in the UMBC community may appear free when working on campus or while logged in off-campus. You can determine that an item is free or open access if:

  • It has an open access logo on it.
  • It has a Creative Commons license on it. 
  • It's published by a journal that indicates that it is gold open-access, or that indicates that the entire journal is on a Creative Commons license.
  • It's published by a publisher that indicates that it solely publishes gold open access materials, or that all of their publications are on a Creative Commons license.
  • You can access the material off-campus while not logged in. 

If an item is on subscription rather than free, all the full limitations of copyright apply. Information on using a subscription resources in your teaching is available under Copyright and Teaching, on the Library Copyright Libguide