Copyright and Open Research 

Copyright and research publications

In most cases, The University of Sheffield automatically waives its claim to copyright of articles and books produced by employees, meaning that as an author you own the copyright of your work initially.  There may be circumstances where this is not the case, especially regarding patents and commercial work.  For more information, you can find the university policy on intellectual property in our Useful Links section, or get in touch with us at if you have any questions.

Copyright and Gold Open Access

Many fully open access (Gold) journals allow authors to retain copyright over their own work instead of transferring it to a publisher.  Articles in these journals are usually made available under a Creative Commons licence (see Useful Links), meaning that anyone is freely able to access, copy, share and reuse the publication providing the correct attribution is given.

There are several different types of Creative Commons licences to choose from.  All of the Creative Commons licences apply globally and ensure that authors retain copyright and receive credit for their work, but the different licences are designed to encourage different types of reuse.

Some open access publishers ask for a transfer of copyright to allow them to use your work in their publicity or in other products or services they offer.  In these cases, they still make the article available under a Creative Commons licence.

The same applies if you publish in a hybrid journal and have paid an article processing charge (APC) to make your article open access.  Authors publishing in the same journal but who have not paid an APC will transfer their copyright to the publisher in the traditional way.

Most funders who pay for article processing charges (APCs) on behalf of authors, such as UKRI or COAF, stipulate that the work must be made available with a CC BY licence.  More details on gold open access can be found here.  For questions about funder requirements, contact

Copyright and Green Open Access

If you have signed a Copyright Transfer Agreement, you must abide by the terms laid out by your publisher.  Many publishers allow you to make your articles or book chapters open access via the Green route by depositing a version of your manuscript into a repository like WRRO.  However, they may stipulate that the publication should not be made publicly available until a certain amount of time has elapsed (known as an 'embargo'), and set conditions for reuse.  You can check publisher self-archiving policies for most journals using the Sherpa Romeo database.  However, once you have deposited your article or book chapter into WRRO, the repository team will double check the policy and ensure that you are not infringing copyright.

Open access and third party material

Third party copyrighted material refers to content used in your work where the copyright belongs to anyone other than yourself.  Some use of third party material is permitted under copyright exceptions, but otherwise you must obtain permission to reproduce this type of material.  If you are unsure about whether your use falls under a copyright exception, contact for guidance.

It is especially important to consider your use of third party material when publishing open access.   Some third party works, such as images of art work, carry high reproduction fees when the material is being made freely available online so it may be necessary to pay for worldwide digital rights to reproduce this type of material in your work.

If you are unable to gain the permission necessary to use third party copyright material to publish under gold open access it is still possible to make your work open via the green route and deposit in WRRO provided you redact the third party content in question.  It is always worth trying to find third party material such as images that are openly licensed and do not require permission to use.  See "Where to find reusable images" in our Useful Links.