Open Access and Public Domain

Open access and public access represent ways of making publications available to as wide an audience as possible. Open access refers to digital materials that are free from copyright or licensing restrictions and that are accessible over the internet. Authors retain copyright and determine any limitations to use, but at minimum, the public is free to download, print, link to, and use these materials. Open access publications are deposited into digital repositories committed to the principles of open and perpetual access, unlimited distribution, and interoperability.

The concept of public access shares many of the goals of Open Access, but it refers to work that has been funded by the federal government or to documents published by branches of government. Public access dates to 1813, when Congress decided to make the work of the government available to its citizens. See the Government Printing Office for more information.

Materials within the public domain are either ineligible for copyright protection or their copyright has expired. U.S. government publications are an example of items that are not eligible for copyright protection. No permission is required to use public domain works. They can be posted on the web, repackaged and sold or given away to others. Project Gutenberg collects and makes available works with expired copyrights.

More information about open access (OA)

  • SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is an international alliance of academic and research libraries dedicated to creating a more open system for sharing scholarly research results." Provides information on OA to a variety of constituencies, including libraries, administrators, publishers, researchers, and students.
  • Open Access Directory. A wiki "compendium of simple factual lists about open access to science and scholarship." Includes a timeline that identifies key moments in the evolution of OA.
  • Copyright retention
    Author retention of copyright is a key concept to open access. The Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine will generate a PDF form that can be attached to a journal publisher's copyright agreement in order to ensure that the author retains certain rights. Additional copyright addendums are available from other sites listed here.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology Faculty Initiative on Open Access On March 18, 2009, the MIT faculty voted unanimously to make their work openly accessible through MIT's Dspace repository. This blog was created to support faculty information needs about OA, especially concerning rights retention.
  • AAUP (American Association of University Publishers) statement on open access. Elsevier (a STEM publisher) comments on the implications of open access publishing in the UK. A rebuttal of many of the arguments made by advocates for open access, but specific to the UK.
  • Students for Free Culture is an international chapter-based student organization that promotes the public interest in intellectual property and information and communications technology policy.

Open Access Repositories

  • Open-Access Journals
    A directory of open access journals that use some form of quality control by way of peer reviewers or editors. 
  • Wisconsin Digital RepositoriesMINDS@UW is designed to gather, distribute, and preserve digital materials related to the University of Wisconsin's research and instructional mission. Content, which is deposited directly by UW faculty and staff, may include research papers and reports, pre-prints and post-prints, datasets and other primary research materials, learning objects, theses, student projects, conference papers and presentations, and other born-digital or digitized research and instructional materials.
  • Digital collections from the Wisconsin Historical Collections. Although most of the materials found here qualify as open access, use of the Wisconsin Historical Images may be restricted under copyright law.

More information about public access

  • National Institute of Health Access Policy. Describes the public access policy used by the National Institute of Health. Since 2005, PubMed Central has been the designated repository for papers submitted in accordance with this policy.

More information about the public domain