A video on Wikipedia claims that Open Access articles come with "full reuse rights" (sections 0:04 and 5:38).

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Are Open Access articles as open as public domain works?

Is the definition of the rights of Open Access articles equivalent to that of the Public Domain?

Would the implementation (e.g. manner of distribution) be a factor?

1 Answer 1


Is an article licensed under an Open Access license equivalent to a public domain work? No.

Intellectual property practitioners and professors often describe copyright as "a bundle of sticks." This means that intellectual property laws grant the creator of a copyrightable work a large number of rights, and the creator can grant or deny others each of those rights individually. So, for instance, an author can grant a publisher the right to publish his or her book in one country, but not in another, or to copy it verbatim but not to alter it.

The purpose of a license, any license, is to specify which of those rights pass to the licensee (the end user) and which stay with the licensor (the creator).

This is true of creative commons just as it is for any other license. For example, many open access publishers publish under the Creative Commons CC-BY journal. This is an attribution license; it requires as a term of the license that you give credit to the original creator. This is something you would not have to do with a public domain work.

In addition, under CC-BY, you have to include a copy of the license with each copy you distribute, and you cannot add your own copy protection to any copies you distribute. Again, these sort of restrictions do not apply to a public domain work.

In short: the purpose of a license--any license--is to define the ways in which you can, or can not, use the licensed materials. Any license that contains any provisions restricting the licensee's use is going to be more restrictive, by definition, than the use of something in the public domain.

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