Open Access

A Broad Definition of Open Access

Image credit: Jessica Kelly

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines open access as follows:

Open access (OA) means free access to information and unrestricted use of electronic resources for everyone. Any kind of digital content can be OA, from texts and data to software, audio, video, and multi-media. While most of these are related to text only, a growing number are integrating text with images, data, and executable code. OA can also apply to non-scholarly content, like music, movies, and novels.

A publication is considered in Open [sic] access if:

  • its content is universally and freely accessible, at no cost to the reader, via the Internet or otherwise;
  • the author or copyright owner irrevocably grants to all users, for an unlimited period, the right to use, copy, or distribute the article, on condition that proper attribution is given;
  • it is deposited, immediately, in full and in a suitable electronic form, in at least one widely and internationally recognized open access repository committed to open access.

Open Access and Open Licenses

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What's the difference between open access and open licenses? Open access refers to the ability to read, view, or listen to content. Open licenses give users specified rights to use that content in multiple ways, such as translating it, adapting it for a new purpose, or incorporating it into other work. The most common type of open license is the modular Creative Commons (CC) License. For more information, please visit the Creative Commons Licenses library guide.