Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC-BY)

This information has been developed primarily for publishers, but is potentially of use to Wellcome Trust-funded researchers. It sets out the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence requirements.

All original, peer-reviewed research articles must be published under the CC-BY licence if Wellcome has funded the article processing charge (APC).

We strongly encourage use of the CC-BY licence for all published work to which our open access policy applies. The requirement to publish under a CC-BY licence only applies to research articles.

The CC-BY licence allows anyone to:

  • copy, distribute and transmit work
  • adapt work
  • make commercial use of the work under the condition that the user must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests they endorse the user or their use of the work).

The following rights are unaffected by the CC-BY licence:

  • user’s fair dealing or fair use rights, or other applicable copyright exceptions and limitations
  • the author's moral rights
  • rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.

We believe that the full research and economic benefit of published content will only be realised when there are no restrictions on access to, and re-use of, this information.

The goal is to unleash published content while allowing publishers to recoup their costs in an effective market.

From a funder perspective, CC-BY achieves this aim. It has now emerged as the standard licence for open access publishing by commercial and non-commercial publishers who recoup their costs from publication fees and other revenue streams.

Example 1: Including figures from a paper in a blog post

Unless a paper is licensed under CC-BY, then figures from that paper cannot typically be included in a blog post. This is because most blog sites carry advertising and so would be viewed as commercial.

A figure could not be included in a Wikipedia page because Wikipedia can only make use of images which are free for commercial use.

Example 2: Creating a translation and charging for it

Wellcome funds a lot of research into malaria and its management and prevention. It’s possible that another organisation may like to take this content and translate it so the information can be more readily understood by local populations.

Translating can incur costs, which the creator may wish to recover by selling this content.

As long as the translation attributes the original research, which would remain freely available, this re-use is permissible.

The CC-BY licence is used by:

  • most of world’s leading open access publishers, including the Public Library of Science and BioMed Central
  • hybrid publishers, such as Elsevier, Wiley and SpringerOpen
  • organisations such as the World Bank.

Creative Commons have developed a number of licences. The three most-used are:

For all three licences and in all cases the work must be attributed in the manner specified by the author or licensor.

This must not be done in any way that suggests the author endorses either the person using the work or the way they use it.


Work made available under CC-BY allows anyone to copy, distribute, transmit, adapt and make commercial use of the material.


Work made available under CC-BY-NC allows anyone to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the material.

Work made available under CC-BY-NC cannot be used for commercial purposes.


Work made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND allows anyone to copy, distribute and transmit the material.

Work made available under CC-BY-NC-ND cannot be:

  • used for commercial purposes
  • altered, transformed or built on.


The CC-BY licence explicitly forbids the use of content as a form of endorsement for product advertising.

You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.

See the attribution note in the 'human readable summary', and in more detail in clause 4b of the legal code.

We believe that the CC-BY licence helps to mitigate the ’competing interest problem’ of publishing pharmaceutical-sponsored research.

Under the CC-BY licence anyone can sell reprints of an article to a pharmaceutical company; under a non-commercial licence only the publisher would retain these rights.

This licence ensures that the content will be fully accessible by anyone. The licence also provides that attribution must be done in a way that is appropriate to the media used to avoid rigid rules that block uses of licensed materials.

We encourage text-miners to cite the dataset (including the query they used) in all publications which make use of text-mined facts.

The CC-BY licence is emerging as the standard OA publishing licence, and our view is that the imposition of any restrictions on the reuse of content limits the value of that content.

Tens of thousands of authors are publishing using the CC-BY licence each year. We’re not aware of any issues that have arisen as a result of using this licence.

The point of funder mandates in this area is to secure a particular outcome – fully reusable results. Our experience is that when presented with the benefits of CC-BY, researchers are happy to accept it.

If a publisher wishes to continue to publish Trust-funded research, under an author-pays, open access model, then they must use the CC-BY licence.

If they don’t, then Trust-funded researchers will not be able to submit their research articles to that publisher.

Where publishers don’t offer a compliant author-pays option but are willing for content to be made freely available via PMC/Europe PMC within six months of publication (eg Nature, Science, NEJM, JAMA etc.) although we encourage these publishers to attach a CC-BY licence to self-archived, author manuscripts, we will not require this.

Wellcome -funded authors can use the SHERPA Funders’ and Authors’ Compliance Tool (SHERPA FACT) to check whether a journal's paid open access option or archive option is compliant with our policy.

In October 2013, we extended our open access policy to include scholarly monographs and book chapters.

Where a publishing fee is levied for monographs and book chapters, such works must be:

  • available without embargo
  • licensed in ways which support re-use.

The CC-BY licence is strongly preferred, but we will accept non-commercial and/or no-derivatives licences (ie CC-BY-NC, or CC-BY-NC-ND).

For more information, please see:

We try to remove as many barriers as possible to the re-use and dissemination of Trust-funded research.

With journal articles – especially in the sciences – there are some kinds of use which are more likely to become viable if the added value of such services can be recouped, and for this reason our open access policy for journal articles specifies a CC-BY licence.

With books, exclusive rights to develop and market secondary products such as print-on-demand hard copies or fully-functional ebooks will help publishers keep down the costs of providing open access versions of books.

Currently, a preference for CC-BY licences while allowing more restrictive licences, such as non-commercial and/or no-derivatives licences, is likely to be more productive.

If you have any queries about this licence and its implementation please email