Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY)

These guidelines set out the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence requirements, which Wellcome researchers need to meet to comply with our open access policy.

Why we require the CC BY licence for preprints and research articles 

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. In our view this is best achieved through the use of the internationally recognised CC BY licence.

What being licensed under CC BY means 

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 that other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.

Examples of re-use enabled by the CC BY licence 

Example 1: Reusing content in education materials, such as text books 

A CC BY licence supports the easy reuse of research article content in lectures and text books, enabling the education of the next generation of researchers. 

Example 2: Creating translations to enable regional implementation of research

Wellcome funds research to improve health. The CC BY licence makes it easier for other organisations to adapt and translate relevant content so the information can be more readily used by different populations.

Creative Commons licences explained 

Creative Commons licences are well-established legal tools widely used by publishers and a range of technology platforms. They are simple, machine-readable and interoperable. This enables large parts of the internet infrastructure to display and filter Creative Commons licenced material appropriately enabling discovery and re-use.

Creative Commons have developed a number of licences. The four most relevant to Wellcome-funded researchers are: 

  • attribution – CC BY
  • attribution, non-commercial – CC BY-NC
  • attribution, non-derivative – CC BY-ND
  • attribution, non-commercial, no-derivatives – CC BY-NC-ND

In all cases, the work must always be attributed in the manner set out in the CC licence used. 

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-ND allows anyone to copy, distribute and transmit the material in an unaltered format. 


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 upon

Protecting inappropriate use of content 

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 licence but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.

See the 'Attribution' in the 'human-readable summary' of the licence and in more detail in Section 3a of the legal code.

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

CC BY-ND licence exception for preprints and research articles 

There may be some instances where researchers may wish to limit the re-use of their published research. For example, where private archival content or research participants have been quoted and researchers do not wish this content adapted without their explicit permission. Or where the researchers wish to retain oversight over translations or re-use of articles in handbooks and collections by publishers.

In such cases, you can ask for an exception to an individual article to be published under a Creative Commons No-Derivatives licence (CC BY-ND), so that your research cannot be used to create derivative works without your permission.

To apply for an exception, complete a CC BY-ND exception form. You will need to have your request approved before your paper is submitted for publication.

If we've approved a CC BY-ND licence, you must check that the journal or publisher you are using allows this licence.

Licence choice for monographs and book chapters 

Researchers publishing monographs and book chapters open access are not required to licence their works CC BY.

While this is our preferred licence, we will accept alternative Creative Commons licences for monographs and book chapters. This includes non-commercial and/or no-derivatives licences, such as CC BY-NC, CC BY-ND or CC BY-NC-ND.

Researchers do not need to apply to Wellcome to use a non-CC BY licence for monographs and book chapters.

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