Q: What's the difference between a license agreement and a copyright transfer agreement?

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What is the difference between a license agreement and a copyright transfer agreement? I haven't received page proofs yet (from Wiley), but they have asked me to sign a license agreement. Is this the norm?

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A copyright transfer agreement involves legally transferring copyright from the author to the journal. A copyright restricts all forms of use of your article, and anybody who wishes to use it will have to seek permission from the journal. While copyright transfer is the norm for print publications and subscription-based publications, its benefit for open access publications have been questioned. For online or open access publishing, it is more common to use CC licenses. A CC license gives readers some rights, such as the right to share and use your work, of course, with attribution. Thus, your article will definitely reach a wider audience. One other benefit of CC licenses is that they are valid worldwide, while copyright can be territorial unless protected by international treaties.

Many open access publishers use CC licenses, such as PLOS, BioMed Central, and even some Nature journals. Possibly, Wiley also follows this system. So you can go ahead and sign the license agreement.

To know more about the types of intellectual property and the kinds of licenses used by authors and publishers, read: Rights to intellectual property in scholarly publishing.