3. Content should also be licensed

3.1. In point 1 you have applied a license to your repository, and to its content “unless otherwise noted”. Now let’s take a look at the “unless otherwise noted” part.

As a repository manager, you (or the University) usually don’t own the copyright in the articles uploaded (unless you have written them).

Therefore, the repository has to implement a license selection procedure that allows the uploader (author or rightsholder) to choose the proper license. As further detailed in point 6, this process should offer a number of choices to the author, but it should be the author who ultimately decides what license to use.

Nevertheless, in order to help researchers to make the right choice, you can offer and implement some guidance that will help researchers to make the right choice and to adhere to Open Science principles.

In points 4 and 5 you will see what choices are recommended for a) data and databases; and b) articles.

Legal source:

See guidelines on open access as provided by the European Commission for details on self-archiving and open access publishing:

  • European Commission (date unknown) “Open Access”. (last accessed 13 July 2018), see “Step 2 - Providing open access to publications”

3.2. We recommend a CC BY 4.0 license in respect of the content of the repository. This is detailed further in Point 5. This may not be appropriate for data or datasets as detailed in Point 4.

Legal Source:

For discussions on the merits of CC BY see the following resources and details in point 5:

Amiel, T. and Soares, T.C. (2016) Identifying Tensions in the Use of Open Licenses in OER Repositories. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(3) (last accessed: 5 July 2018), see “Licensing”

Creative Commons UK (2017) Frequently Asked Questions on Creative Commons & Open Access. Zenodo. (last accessed: 3 July 2018), see “How should I license my work for the purposes of Open Access?”

Mewhort, K. (2012) Creative Commons Licenses: Options for Canadian Open Data Providers. (last accessed: 5 July 2018)


Some funders and institutions may require that any outputs are made available under a CC BY license, some of which are detailed in the following source:

3.3. Creative Commons licenses are not appropriate for software.

Instead, we would recommend that a GNU GPL v3.0, BSD/Apache style license is applied. These are some of the most well-established public licenses for free software, and are based on the “copyleft” concept for open source software. They are also highly interoperable with other licenses.

Legal sources:

Creative Commons confirm that their licenses should not be applied to software:

  • Creative Commons (2018) Frequently Asked Questions. (last accessed: 4 July 2018), see “Can I apply a Creative Commons license to software?”

The following open access software licenses are appropriate substitutes for a CC BY or CC0 license:

3.4. Whilst Creative Commons licenses may apply to both digital and non-digital content, this guide currently provides advice only in respect of fully digital repositories.

Libraries and cultural heritage institutions may need to audit their non-digitised resources, and check for complex or multilayered content (e.g. multiple authors, orphan works etc.)

Legal source:

For guidance on digitising works for the purpose of creating a digital repository, see the following sources:

  • Hamilton, G. and Saunderson, F. (2017) Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage. London, Facet Publishing, chapter 12 (p167-p193)
  • Jordan, M. (2006) Putting Content Online: A Practical Guide for Libraries. Oxford, Chandos Publishing.

This may be a particularly relevant consideration for any projects funded by the European Research Council, which require that all project materials be machine-readable. In this case, scans are not acceptable, which may impact non-digital repositories:

3.4.1. If you need to digitise materials for use on an online repository, note that there may be special considerations for traditional knowledge works.


Both the Alaska Native Knowledge Network and Charles Darwin University provide examples of special considerations and guidance when digitising or collecting traditional knowledge works:

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