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Copyright and open licences when publishing

Knowing what applies to various copyright issues when you publish your research results is essential. By knowing your rights, you can disseminate your publication more easily. On this page, you can read about copyright in publishing, publishing agreements, and Creative Commons licences.

Copyright comprises two parts

When you create a work, for example, a research publication, you and any co-authors automatically acquire the copyright.

Copyright consists of the following parts:

  • The moral right means that you have the right to be identified as the author of the work and that the work cannot be used offensively. This part of the copyright cannot be transferred to someone else.
  • The economic right includes the right to publish and distribute the work. Unlike moral rights, economic rights can be transferred, for example, to a publisher.

Check which rights you keep

If you retain the copyright to your work, you decide how others can use it while still having the freedom to use it as you wish. However, transferring the economic copyright to a publisher may affect your ability to use your publication. For example, this may involve sharing your publication on a website, in the publication database DiVA, or on Researchgate. You should, therefore, carefully read the information on the publisher's website and what is stated in the publishing agreement before signing. 

When you publish with open access, you often retain the full copyright of your work, whereas in other forms of publishing, you usually transfer the economic rights to the publisher. However, you should check whether you retain full copyright even when your publication is published with open access.

A non-exclusive publishing licence gives you more freedom

In addition to retaining full copyright, it is also good to check what type of publishing licence the publisher offers. An exclusive licence imposes restrictions on you as an author, as the publisher gets the right to decide how the work can be used. Therefore, make sure that you only grant the publisher a non-exclusive licence, if possible.

Open access and Creative Commons licences

Typically, an open access publication has a Creative Commons licence that clarifies how others can use it. A Creative Commons licence means the user does not have to contact you as the copyright holder to get permission to use your work.

A Creative Commons licence does not affect your moral rights. Users must still acknowledge you as the author and may not use the work offensively.

Choose a suitable licence

There are various Creative Commons licences, some of which do not allow the work to be used in a commercial context. Your choice of licence should be based on funding requirements, if any, and yours or your research group's publishing strategy. In most cases, a CC BY licence is the best option. This is the most reusable licence and is required by many research funders.

A tool from Creative Commons to choose a licence:

Share your work – choose a license (Creative Commons)

Learn more

The library's open online course on Creative Commons licences will teach you how to choose a licence and other important considerations when signing a publishing agreement.

Online course: Creative Commons licences in scholarly publishing

Read more about Creative Commons licences:

Creative Commons for researchers (National Library of Sweden)

Considerations for licensors and licensees (CC Wiki)

Using other people's material in your publication

If illustrations, tables, and other materials you want to use are published under a Creative Commons licence, you can use them in accordance with the licence. If there is no licence information, you must ask the copyright holder for permission to use the material.

Read more about copyright and how to use copyrighted material:


Umeå University's policy for scientific publishing

The University's policy states that research results should be published with open access as far as possible. In cases where a publication is not published with open access, a full-text copy should be made available in the university's publication database DiVA. All publications must be registered in DiVA.

Open access policy for scientific publications at Umeå University

Do you have questions on copyright and publishing?

The library can guide you when you want to publish your research results. Contact us if you have questions about open access, publishing agreements with publishers, choosing a Creative Commons licence or DiVA.

Latest update: 2024-05-29