Creative Commons & Open Access

Several important movements and developments have led to widespread rethinking of the "ownership" of copyrights at the university. Most important have been the broadening acceptance of Creative Commons licensing and the adoption of "open access" policies at many universities. These developments do not actually lead to a change in the ownership of the copyrights in works. Instead, they provide for effective means to share rights to use many scholarly works. For example, the Harvard resolution on open access does not alter the ownership of works. It provides only that authors shall make a copy of scholarly articles available for access through the institutional repository.

Developers and creators of scholarly works, ranging from research articles to online instructional tools, should consider carefully how they would like to hold and manage the copyrights in all such works.  Remember, copyright applies instantly and automatically to almost all of these works.  Your decision about managing the copyrights can make the work more useful and more valuable to the wider academic community.  Be a good steward of your own copyrights.

In particular, this office recommends that authors of scholarly and educational works give serious consideration to whether you want to adhere to conventional rules of copyright, or would like to broaden access to and use of your works.  No one rule is right for all authors and all works.  However, authors should consider the following:

  • Should I make my work Open Access?  If you are the author and hold the copyright in the work, the decision is yours.  You should consider publishing the work with an OA journal, or simply making the work available on a website or by other means.  At Columbia University, you may deposit most of your works with Academic Commons, a service that will maintain copies and make them available to your colleagues and to the public.  You are not changing or giving away the copyright.  You are only making the work available.
  • Should I use Creative Commons?  Again, if you hold the rights, you can make the decision.  CC is a essentially a way of saying "I hold the copyright, but I am allowing others to use the work on these terms."  Many works at Columbia are made available with a CC license.  For example, the CCNMTL has facilitated the use of a CC license for many of the YouTube videos and other materials that it creates in association with Columbia faculty.  The preferable form of CC license in many situations will be "Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives."  This form of a license permits anyone to use the materials for noncommercial purposes (such as nonprofit education and scholarship), provided the user includes an appropriate statement of attribution (such as the author’s name and credit to the institution).  The user may not make "derivatives," which could include new edits, updates, translations, or other versions of the work.  However, the user could still make such uses, but only under fair use or other exception or with permission from the owner.

Follow the links below for additional information.  Here at the Copyright Advisory Office, we are implicitly making many of our works available "open access" simply by posting content to the website without restriction.  We are also step-by-step migrating more of our works to a CC license.  Here is an example of a paper, with a simple statement of a CC license at the end.

The Open Access Movement

Open Access Initiatives at the University

Copyright Initiatives and Innovations


Most Recent Revision: 102410


When making use of this page under the terms of the CC license, please include this form of attribution: "Used under a Creative Commons BY license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director."  If your needs for the material are outside the scope of the license, please consider fair use or simply asking us for permission.