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I recently published an article, not under Open Access (I paid zero fees), but under Creative Commons, and received an email that indicated I could share my article anywhere in its final form. There didn't seem to be any restrictions. The text of the email is below. How is the sharing via Creative Commons different from Open Access?

Your article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license which allows users to read, copy, distribute and make derivative works, as long as the author of the original work is cited. You may self archive this article in any location of your choice, including on your own website, an institutional repository or funder’s repository and make it publicly available immediately. How can I share my article?

Your final article (Version of Record) may be shared anywhere, at any time, by you or by anyone providing they observe the terms of CC BY and credit you as author, as described above.

So whether you want to share your article on a website, a scholarly collaboration network, by email, on social media, in teaching, or anywhere else, you’re free to do so! Announce your publication

We encourage you to forward this email to your co-authors. Additionally we recommend you mention your article’s publication and its DOI on your website or your social media profiles.

EDIT 1/15/2024 Perhaps I need to qualify my question. I understand that there are two main types of Open Access and that "Green" allows for self-archiving and sharing (and that "Gold" just makes the article free on the publisher's website). So, how does Green Open Access differ from using Creative Commons to self archive?

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  • From whom did you get that email?
    – Buffy
    Dec 31, 2023 at 20:46
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    @Buffy The publisher, in this case Springer.
    – iwantmyphd
    Dec 31, 2023 at 20:51
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    Where did you read that your paper is "not under Open Access"? Dec 31, 2023 at 20:55
  • Was your work published as part of a larger collection? Say one paper in a print volume of works on a similar topic?
    – Buffy
    Dec 31, 2023 at 21:31
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    @FedericoPoloni In reading the webpage that lists recent articles, some have "Open Access" next to them, others do not. Our article is one that does not. Also, we opted out of it, so I don't imagine the publisher would give Open Access for free after choosing not to pay.
    – iwantmyphd
    Dec 31, 2023 at 23:03

4 Answers 4

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To quote directly from Springer:

Open access (OA) refers to the free, immediate, online availability of research outputs such as journal articles or books, combined with the rights to use these outputs fully in the digital environment. OA content is open to all, with no access fees.

The CC BY licence is the most open licence available and considered the industry 'gold standard' for OA; it is also preferred by many funders. It lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. It offers maximum dissemination and use of licenced materials. All Springer Nature journals with OA options offer the CC BY licence, and this is now the default licence for the majority of Springer Nature fully OA journals. It is also the default license for OA books and chapters. Other Creative Commons licenses are available on request.

In other words, CC BY is a commonly used license for OA publications. It seems unlikely that a publisher such as Springer would be willing to publish a non-OA paper under such a license, as it would be trivial and permitted to sidestep any paywall.

Possible reasons for why you might have published an article under a CC BY license without being asked to pay any fees include

  • the journal is diamond open access (no fee to either authors or readers),
  • you may be subject to a transformative publishing agreement with the journal or publisher that makes publishing open access free for authors, or a similar agreement between your institution's library and the publisher.
  • your fees were otherwise waived. Normally you would have to ask for needs-based waivers, but sometimes new journals have promotional periods with zero fees in order to attract papers.
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Open access is more about who pays for publication, though it normally implies a CC or similar license to the work for readers. In (gold) open access the authors (or their institution) pay the costs of publication and readers have immediate access, but with some possible restrictions. Whether the right to make derivative works is included might vary. The publisher or, more likely, the authors retain copyright.

CC license doesn't entail money and such a license can be given without a publisher. Readers have the rights given by the license and authors retain all other rights. Authors can give a CC license to any of their creative works and distribute/publish them as they please.

In your case, Springer is presumably paying the cost of publication (not open access) and will charge for access to recoup costs and make a profit. The letter seems simply to be a reiteration of the CC license and your rights. It surprises me, actually, that Springer would allow such a permissive license, especially the right for derivatives.


Following the comment of Federico Poloni, are you sure that it isn't Open Access? Did you pay a substantial fee for publication? Note that some journals require some fees (page fees) that don't imply open access, but open access fees are normally much higher.

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Maybe one subtle difference is that Springer does not make your paper freely available on their website to non-subscribers.

Being CC means everyone can share it for free when they have a copy, but it doesn't mean that Springer has to make it available to everyone.

You can probably confirm this (or disprove it!) by visiting the journal's website from outside your university's network.

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Do not mix the copyright terms (CC policies) with the publication styles (all the colors of Open Access you can think of).

Green OA is not strongly defined. In terms of most publishers, it means the publication will be available after an embargo period, but often it is not CC or other open content policy.

For an overview of the open access schemes: have a look at this figure: 
Jamie-farquharson - https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.21598179
Venn diagram highlighting the different levels of open access in scholarly publishing, as a function of cost to the readers and authors, copyright retention, and peer review. Adapted from Farquharson, Jamie Ian (2018-07-31). "Introducing Volcanica: The first diamond open-access journal for volcanology". Volcanica 1 (1): i–ix. DOI:10.30909/vol.01.01.i-ix. ISSN 2610-3540. Figure 1: Jamie-farquharson - https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.21598179 Venn diagram highlighting the different levels of open access in scholarly publishing, as a function of cost to the readers and authors, copyright retention, and peer review. Adapted from Farquharson, Jamie Ian (2018-07-31). "Introducing Volcanica: The first diamond open-access journal for volcanology". Volcanica 1 (1): i–ix. DOI:10.30909/vol.01.01.i-ix. ISSN 2610-3540.

With gold and diamond the authors can decide what to do with their copyrights.

I am surprised that the big publishers did not yet came out with an Open Access model where both the authors and the readers have to pay, and additionally they can only access papers through their free-to-use closed source reader (I am kidding, I know this model already exists, it is called traditional publishing).

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