Reuse, Author Choice, and the Open Access Spectrum: New Creative Commons Licenses for Southern Spaces Authors

Emory University
Emory University
Published March 3, 2014
Jesse P. Karlsberg
Emory University
Sarah Melton
Emory University

Southern Spaces is now offering authors the option of distributing new work published in the journal under a Creative Commons license. Beginning in 2014, in addition to retaining copyright of their work, authors may now elect to license their work under the following Creative Commons licenses.

Creative Commons loves Open Access, 2014. A derivative work based on an illustration by Jan Ainali. Released under a CC BY SA license by Southern Spaces.
Creative Commons loves Open Access, 2014. A derivative work based on an illustration by Jan Ainali. Released under a CC BY SA license by Southern Spaces.
  • Using a CC BY (attribution) license, authors allow their work to be freely distributed, copied, and performed, as long as users give credit to the original work. A CC BY license also allows for derivative works. An author might choose this license if she wants to provide the greatest opportunity for reuse.
  • Under a CC BY-ND (attribution, no derivatives) license, users are free to copy, display, distribute, or perform the original work with attribution. Users may not make derivative works, such as those "consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship."1 An author might choose this license if she wants to retain the exclusive right to make such modifications.
  • A CC BY-NC (attribution, non-commercial) license allows for copies, distribution, display, or performances of a work by attribution, but only for non-commercial uses. This license also allows for derivative works. Authors might choose this license if they wish to prohibit commercial publishers from republishing their work without obtaining further explicit permission. Authors should be aware that since much academic publishing is commercial, this license may "discourag[e] or at least slow . . . down [commercial] re-use of [their] content by requiring that people ask . . . permission."2
  • The CC BY-NC-ND (attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives) license is the most restrictive choice offered by Southern Spaces. Users may copy, distribute, display, or perform a work, but only for non-commercial purposes. No derivative works are permitted. Authors might choose this license if they wish to encourage greater distribution of their work without permission than would be possible if retaining copyright, but restrict commercial entities from republishing their scholarship, and prohibit all users from making modifications to their work without permission.

Our decision to offer these options is an example of our ongoing evaluation of how to manifest our journal's commitment to open access publishing. By providing greater reuse rights through adopting a Creative Commons license, authors gain the potential to increase the reach and future use of their scholarship.3

Creative Commons licenses also provide an attribution requirement, which is particularly relevant to scholarly publishing but is not included in US Copyright Law.4 Attribution through citations is an important component of scholarly integrity, providing readers with the means to follow a scholar's arguments. Citation counts are also used to assist tenure and promotion committees in assessing a scholar's impact and productivity.5

The publishers of the Public Library of Science (PLOS) have described open access as a spectrum, prompting a move "beyond the deceptively simple question of, 'Is It Open Access?' toward a more productive evaluation of 'HowOpenIsIt?'" Among PLOS's criteria for gauging where a publication lies on the open access spectrum are "reuse" and "copyright." For PLOS, "closed access" means "no reuse rights beyond fair use/limitations and exceptions to copyright (all rights reserved copyright)." PLOS ranks various Creative Commons licenses on its spectrum of openness, characterizing CC BY-ND licenses as midway between open and closed, CC BY-NC licenses as occupying a middle ground, and CC BY licenses as the gold standard for open access.6

Our decision to have authors retain their copyright and give authors the choice among four Creative Commons licenses is based on our desire to balance our commitment to open access with a desire to serve our authors' professional aspirations and respect their choices. Authors may wish to retain some say over who reuses their work, and under what conditions. Some publishers, for example, have stringent requirements about the licensing of previously published works. Retaining copyright can be important for authors who are working on book manuscripts or other projects that may incorporate pieces published elsewhere, especially those authors seeking tenure or promotion. While we encourage the free circulation of information, we believe it is unfair to impose reuse requirements on authors—particularly given the imperatives of "publish or perish" and instability in hiring in higher education.

This new author agreement represents the journal's parallel commitments to open access and to supporting authors of all academic ranks, including those outside the academy. We encourage interested authors to contact us with any questions about our new licensing options, and we look forward to participating in further conversations about open access and author's rights.

See and share the infographic below on Southern Spaces's new author agreement.

  • 1. "17 US Code, Chapter 1, Section 101–Definitions," Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School, accessed February 10, 2014,
  • 2. Bethany Nowiskie, "Why, Oh Why, CC-BY?", May 11, 2011, accessed February 10, 2014,
  • 3. At present, there have been no studies on the effects of Creative Commons licensing on future use of scholarship. However, scholars such as informatics professor Dr. Mathias Klang have reported that their Creative Commons–-licensed work has gained more exposure than other publications. See Mathias Klang, "The Advantages of Creative Commons in Academia," SpotOn, October 17, 2012, accessed February 18, 2014,
  • 4. For more on attribution and US as well as European copyright law, see Christopher Jon Springman, Christopher J. Buccafusco, and Zachary C. Burns, "What's a Name Worth?: Experimental Tests of the Value of Attribution in Intellectual Property," Boston University Law Review 93 (2013): 101–147,
  • 5. New citation analysis tools such as Google Scholar cast an unprecedentedly wide net in identifying sources in which to search for citations, perhaps making requiring attribution—already assumed in traditional scholarly publishing—more consequential. On the use of citation counts and related metrics in tenure and promotion decision-making, see, for example, Henk F. Moed, Citation Analysis in Research Evaluation (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2005). The merits of favoring citation counts in tenure and promotion decisions have long been debated, sometimes charmingly so, as in Eugene Garfield, "Citation Frequency as a Measure of Research Activity and Performance," in Essays of an Information Scientist, ed. Eugene Garfield (Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1977), 406–408.
  • 6. "HowOpenIsIt?: Open Access Spectrum (OAS)," Public Library of Science, 2013, accessed February 3, 2014,

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