Kent Open Access week: Your Questions Answered

Following our Open Access week celebrations last week (a week ahead of the International #OAWeek, we’re keen!) we wanted to publish the questions (with answers, of course) that came up during the week:

‘If an article is Open Access (i.e. available for reuse under a permissive Creative Commons licence) does this licence apply to its tables, charts and figures?’

Disclaimer:  This information is provided for guidance only and should not be construed as legal advice. You should always contact our Copyright team if you require help with specific cases.

Before answering this question, it is important to know that there are copyright ‘exceptions’ which may allow use of limited amounts of copyright protected material without the copyright owner’s permission e.g.: for the purposes of non-commercial research or for certain teaching purposes. For further information see, Gov.UK guidance, or contact

If the table or figure was created by the author(s) and does not state a different licence it will usually fall under the same licence as the rest of the article. However, always be mindful of third party content. This is content in which the copyright is not owned by the author or the reader (hence a third party). Quotes, tables or images etc, used in an article that are not the intellectual property of the article author will not necessarily be covered by the licence (e.g. Creative Commons) associated with the article.

Data or facts in themselves cannot be protected by copyright, only the presentation of them can. If you wish to represent someone else’s data in an article, in order to prevent potential infringement of copyright in a figure, chart or table, there needs to be a significant change to the way the data are expressed, not merely aesthetic such as a change of font or adding colour (hence you will often see tables cited as ‘adapted from source‘). However, if you are extracting information or re-grouping a table this may be permitted without any copyright implications. Alternatively, it may be possible to reproduce limited amounts of third party tables or charts without permission under fair dealing exceptions such as “quotation” and “criticism and review”. Our Copyright Support and Software Licensing Manager, Chris Morrison, can be contacted for further guidance on any specific cases.

Always note the conditions of the licence (e.g. Creative Commons). CC-BY-NC means Creative Commons-Attribution- NonCommercial and does not permit commercial re-use. Therefore a scholarly work with this licence could not be used for commercial purposes. Even though the definition of commercial and non-commercial remains a matter of debate (see here), the use of third party content in traditional academic books or as promotional matter for a paid-for event is likely to be commercial. The Creative Commons (CC) licences with the SA (Share Alike) component require the new item to be available under the same, or an equivalent licence. Therefore if you are incorporating content under an SA licence (e.g. Wikipedia content) then you then you may be in breach of licence unless you license your own work under the same terms. If you wish to use Creative Commons-licensed, Open Access content for a purpose prohibited by the CC licence you will need to request permission from the copyright holder in the same way you would for a non-Open Access publication.

If you are writing a book, it is worth noting that many of the major publishers have signed up to the STM permissions guidelines which permits a small amount of content to be reused without charge (and for some publishers without notification). If your publisher and the publisher of the content you wish to use are both signatories to the permissions guidelines you will not need to formally request permission.

Remember in all cases, whether relying on Creative Commons licences, direct negotiated permissions, or copyright exceptions, that it is essential you cite your sources and attribute the content you are using to the author/copyright holder.

‘Are there any sources out there for just finding the Creative Commons articles without wading through articles I can’t access?’  

OSC note:  Please see separate blog post for a more comprehensive answer.

OpenDOAR (The Directory of Open Access Repositories) and DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) are excellent sources for finding Open Access content. There are also a number of tools, including Unpaywall and Open Access button, which will search a large number of repositories to try and find a freely available version for you, but these typically require that you know exactly what you’re looking for (and usually the DOI).


‘Why can’t I put the Publisher version up? How do I find out what is permitted?’

The final, Publisher PDF (also known as the ‘Version of Record or ‘VoR’) is protected by Publisher copyright and cannot usually be shared on academic repositories or openly accessible websites. Please see our version guide for clarification on the different stages.

Check Sherpa Romeo for your journal’s policy and contact us if you are unsure. KAR is an ‘institutional repository’, which will often be listed separately from personal and even departmental website. Please note that even where you are permitted to upload your pre-print to a personal website or other external website this does not replace the REF requirement to add a compliant version [Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) or final PDF, where permitted] to KAR or another eligible repository.

If you use our REF Assisted Deposit Service the library team will check the copyright requirements and add the item to KAR on your behalf with the correct embargo.


‘A 12-month embargo is a research-killer in my field. What’s the quickest way for me to get my research out there?’ 

One option is to publish with ‘Gold’ Open Access if funds are available (the University has some money available for this purpose, subject to criteria set out here). This means that your paper will be freely available via the publisher’s website. Almost all publishers will apply a Creative Commons licence to your ‘Version of Record’ (Publisher PDF) if you have paid an APC. The Creative Commons licences permit you to ‘copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format’, subject to stated terms, and thus permit sharing on social media and academic networking sites.

Many journals allow you to post your pre-print, and sometimes the post-print, to a personal website, so this is an option if you would like all of your research in one place. Note that many website-hosting services will charge a fee and the University will not meet these costs.

Some journals specify an embargo period for the Author Manuscript to be posted on Academic Networking sites. There may also be restrictions for posting to a subject repository such as ArXiv, RepEc and SocArxiv, though in some disciplines such as Economics and Physics working papers are often posted up prior to submitting to a journal.  Always check your author contract for their policy. Many journals will not allow you to share a version of your paper until it has published online on the journal website.


‘Am I allowed to post my article to ResearchGate and’ 

OSC note: This answer assumes you have not paid for Gold Open Access

Sometimes journals will permit sharing on ResearchGate, and Mendeley (this varies dependent on journal) but we strongly recommend caution. Check Sherpa Romeo for your journals policy; if nothing is stated it is likely not permitted. A reasonable number of journals will allow you to share a pre-print (your original submitted version, prior to peer-review – note that this is not the same version you need to upload to KAR for REF compliance) on any site. A smaller number will allow the post-print (final, accepted version before publisher adds logo or formatting). Very occasionally a journal will permit you to use the Publisher PDF. Many journals specify that your manuscript can only be shared on non-profit servers which would prohibit sharing on any of these sites. Some Sherpa Romeo records specifically state an embargo for these sites and you will almost always be required to link to the article on the publisher’s website – always do your utmost to ensure that terms are followed.

We advise extreme caution when posting items to Academic networking sites. Please note that ResearchGate and DO NOT count as an author’s personal website. Both are for-profit services, posting to which is often explicitly prohibited in publisher policies. Posting on or ResearchGate is not sufficient for compliance with REF Open Access rules so these sites should never be viewed as an alternative to uploading items to KAR.


‘Can I (should I?) put the full text of my book chapter on KAR?’ 

Many publishers permit open access self-archiving of single chapters or a small percentage of the book (for single-authored books) to be made available. These will almost always require an embargo. The community is working towards a comprehensive directory of policies but this is not yet available. Please contact us for queries relating to specific Publishers and we will do our best to check the policy for you.

N.B.: There is not currently any mandate for book chapters to be made Open Access in terms of REF compliance.


‘Doesn’t publishing an article Open Access mean someone can steal my work?’ 

No – all of the Creative Commons licences require attribution of the original author. You can also put limitations on use, such as commercial (choose CC-BY-NC), or limit the creation of derivatives (CC-BY-ND or CC-BY-NC-ND). Information on all of the licences, plus a link to the CC licence chooser tool, can be found on the Research Support pages here.  Be aware that many funders specify which licence you must use (often CC-BY – the most open licence) so if you are funded do check restrictions, or contact us for advice.