Creative Commons licensing in Indonesian open access journals: current challenges and the way forward

As a member of the journal management task force at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), Indonesia, I help manage over 70 academic journals, all of which are open access. For open access journals, one of the most important things is applying a license to articles, so that transparency—of both copyright and users’ rights—is ensured. Because of their ease of use and understanding, Creative Commons licenses have become the first choice for journal publishers seeking to license their content. This is also aided by the fact that CC licenses are one of the main requirements for inclusion in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Creative Commons’ reputation in academic publishing is well-deserved, not only because it is a key cog in the open access machine, but because its licenses support the core values of open access scholarly publishing, namely the advancement of knowledge through openness and sharing, and ethical conduct in the production of scholarly publications.

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COPE's version of the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, downloadable here. A long poster version can also be downloaded here.

In our journal team, we adhere to the DOAJ’s Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing. These are a set of principles established collaboratively between the Committee on Publication Ethics, the DOAJ, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, and the World Association of Medical Editors, and with which all of their respective members must comply. Concerning to copyright and licensing, the principles dictate that publishers should clearly state their copyright policy and provide licensing information (including policies regarding uploading published articles to third party repositories) in the journals’ guidelines, and that in each published article, the copyright holder and licensing terms should be indicated. In addition, in choosing their licensing terms, each journal is required to adhere to the Budapest Open Access Initiative’s (BOAI) definition of open access, to which Creative Commons licenses also conform. The BOAI insists that copyright in open access should be retained by authors, and that they should have complete control over how their works are to be used, remixed, tweaked, and distributed. Such a broad and varied range of freedoms necessitates something that works alongside copyright to pre-grant these rights. This is where Creative Commons comes in.

A generic square placeholder image with rounded corners in a figure.
COPE's version of the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, downloadable here. A long poster version can also be downloaded here.

Indonesian journal managers' adoption of CC licenses

The use of CC licenses by open access journals in Indonesia has been a common practice for the past four years. This is primarily because it is advocated by the Public Knowledge Project in its journal management software, Open Journal Systems, as well as the aforementioned requirement of it by the DOAJ (particularly where the DOAJ Seal is concerned), which is one of the indexing services used by the Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education of the Republic of Indonesia to assess researcher performance.

Nevertheless, most journal managers are not well-versed in Creative Commons, making them incapable of appropriately applying the licenses. Many are also wary of abandoning the traditional “all rights reserved” policy, for the fear of losing “ownership” of the articles they publish. Both of these shortcomings inevitably create problems when the time comes to choose or apply a license, the manifestations of which are unfortunately easy to find, most often after the license has been applied and is in use.

Publishers will choose their license based on what other journals use.

— An unfortunately all-too-common problem.

The first such example is applying the license carelessly, choosing it without prior thought and without being able to justify choosing it, and often then failing to provide an explanation of the readers’ rights to use and reuse the content, or otherwise providing an incorrect explanation. Most of the time, these publishers will choose their license based on what other journals use. The second example is when the licensing statement contradicts the type of license chosen. And the third is contradicting the CC licensing terms because of confusion over copyright ownership, usually in the form of “this work is licensed under CC BY-[...], © [journal name]-All rights reserved”. In some cases, we even find this contradiction when the copyright policy states that authors retain copyright.

These problems stem from journal managers’ lack of understanding of the underlying ideas and objectives behind applying CC licenses to the articles they publish, and the prevailing belief that a journal must maintain its grip on the copyright of “its” articles. This resistance to the idea of letting the authors retain the copyright of their articles is built on the erroneous belief that applying CC licenses and allowing authors to retain copyright prevents a publisher from profiting from the journal.

It’s also important to note that publishers should not bear all responsibility. Authors, too, are ignorant of copyright and CC licensing. As a result, they are often willing to transfer the copyright to the publisher, without first considering their rights, even if the journal’s policy is for authors to retain the copyright. Regardless of whether it is ignorance or confusion, this presents a flaw in the supposedly ethical production of an academic journal. An author might publish their work in a given journal, and then be surprised to find it being shared in a way they dislike. Things get even messier if you combine this with an author or reader who is confused even further by a conflicting or unclear copyright policy.

The solution these problems is actually pretty straightforward: educating the parties involved about copyright and CC licensing. In UGM, we have conducted many workshops and regularly provide consultation and assistance in all aspects of copyright and CC licensing. However, reality still does not live up to our expectations. Journals have the appropriate copyright notices thanks to our efforts, but their managers still don’t fully grasp went home without the understanding of CC licensing. The truth is that Creative Commons’ philosophy—the advancement of knowledge and culture through sharing—is not yet rooted in our academic culture. It will take time for this philosophy to permeate our campuses. But, with well-structured efforts and proper support from universities and the government, we will eventually get there, at which point Creative Commons will find a true foothold in Indonesian academia.

Siti Nurleily Marliana

edited by Joaquim Baeta


  1. [Cover image] "Yeah! I Made This" by rude billy,, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Modified to crop sections above forehead and below neck.

Siti Nurleily Marliana and Joaquim Baeta. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.