Open Access

Q1. What is Open Access Publishing?

Q2. What are predatory publishers and how can I avoid them?

Q3. What is Copyright?

Q4. What is a predatory open access journal?



A1. Open Access Publishing is making your material freely and openly available on the internet. There is some evidence to support that doing that early in the publication cycle can help grow your citations and thereby your academic reputation.

This short video by 'Piled High and Deeper' (PhD comics) gives a really good explanation of Open Access publishing and why you should start doing this early in your career.


A2. Predatory publishers are publishers who use the Open Access Model which collects fees from authors prior to publication but who do not provide the expected publishing services and conceal their fees. They will intend to deceive and exploit authors and will have a lack of transparency in their operations. They will mostly solicit authors by email or by invitations to join editorial boards.

So before agreeing to anything do some of the following:

  • Check that the publisher's website has full contact details, especially look for addresses.
  • Look at the Editorial Board. These should be experts you recognise and their full affiliation should be listed. It may be no harm to contact one or two and ask them about the publisher.
  • Check that author's fees are displayed prominently. It is a bad sign if you have to dig deep to find them.
  • Read some of the articles that have been published and assess the quality.
  • Ask the library to confirm taht the claimed impact factor is correct.
  • Useful to check if the journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.


A3. These guidelines are intended as a general introduction to the complicated area of Copyright Law in Ireland. They are not an authorative interpretation of the law.

The Act governing this area is the Copyright and Related Rights Acts, 2000.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal right protecting the economic interests of people/organisations that create works of various kinds in their work. This right cannot be taken away from them nor can their works be used in any way without their permission.

Copyright is also a moral right which includes the right to be identified as the creator of a work, not to have works falsely attributed to you or have your work falsely attributed to someone else. It also means that your work cannot be changed or adapted without your permission.

This means that if you create the work, generally you own the copyright, and unless you give it away to another person such as a publisher, you retain that right for your lifetime and, depending on the format of the work involved, for a specified time afterwards. The owner of the copyright is referred to as the Copyright Holder.

Do I have to do anything to be declared the Copyright Holder?

Copyright is established automatically by the fact of creating the work and is international.

Who is normally the Copyright Holder?

The copyright holder is normally the creator of the work such as the author, editor, publisher, producer, director, photographer, artist, sculptor, database compiler and so on. If the work is created in the course of your job, your employer will normally be the copyright holder. This can vary from institution to institution so should be checked with your Research Office. Always check that any employment or research contract clearly states what the copyright policy of the employer is in this regard.

What are the exclusive rights of the Copyright Holder?

The copyright holder is the only person who has the right to use and gain economically from the use of the work. Any other use must be with the permission of the copyright holder and if required, must include a payment to them. Subject to exemptions in the Copyright Act the copyright holder has the exclusive right to undertake, or allow to undertake certain actions such as reproduction, making works available (broadcasting, lending), adaptation (translations from one language to another, conversion to electronic formats).

What kind of work is protected by Copyright?

Any expression of ideas or facts, once they are fixed in some way has copyright protection. They are "fixed" in many kinds of ways such as writing it down, filming, recording it, printing it, painting, performing, broadcasting, and inputting on a database. So for example copyright will attach to literary works, scholarly works, dramatic, musical and artistic works, computer programs, databases and websites. Within the law there is no definition of what is a work but normal common sense dictates what it is and there should also be awareness that the situation may be more complicated than it seems. For example the bringing together of a number of individual works may result in a database which will attract its own copyright. To be included in a collection without your permission is a breach of copyright.

How long does Copyright last?

Generally, copyright lasts for the creator's lifetime plus 70 years. Remember that in many formats there may be several copyright holders simultaneously, for example, an author and a publisher can have different rights in the same published edition at the same time. Remember, if a book is out of print it may still be in copyright.

Sound recordings, broadcasts and the typographical arrangements of published works are protected by copyright for a period of 50 years.

Where material is published in volumes/parts or broadcast in episodes the period of copyright protection starts from the day on which the individual part was made available.

While the content of the work may be out of copyright if the author has been dead more than 70 years, the publisher will continue to have copyright in the typographical arrangement (actual print layout of the book) in any published edition of that book for 50 years.

Sound recordings and broadcasts are protected by copyright for 50 years.

If someone makes a work available to the public for the very first time after the original copyright has expired they may acquire rights equivalent to the author's for  period of 25 years. This will only happen if it has never been available before.

What is breach of Copyright?

The Act states "Copyright is infringed by a person, who without licence of the copyright owner undertakes or authorises another person to undertake acts restricted by copyright".

Copyright can be infringed in many ways and if in doubt, always seek permission of the copyright holder.

Are there any exemptions?

The Act allows for limited use of copyright works without licence or payment. There are 3 main exemptions:- Fair Dealing, Education, Libraries and Archives.

Fair Dealing

There is no legal definition for fair dealing. It is intended to strike a reasonable balance between the economic interests of the copyright holder and the information needs of the user. So reproduction of copyright material for research and private study is allowed, although there is no exact definition of how much you can copy. It is allowed if it is as the Act states "for a purpose and to an extent that will not unreasonably prejudice the interests of the copyright holder". Under fair dealing you are not allowed to make a copy and photocopy it so that it can be made available to more than one person. This may be covered in the Educational Exemptions and in the terms of the ICLA (Irish Copyright Licencing Agency) licence.


A4. Predatory is a term applied to publishers who are guilty of unethical publishing practices. They exist in the print world but are more common in the electronic world. Quality open access journals are becoming more common as they allow for rapid peer review and dissemination. The ease of starting an online publication combined with the author pays model has allowed some individuals and organisations to create substandard journals to take advantage of researchers who are eager to publish.

How do I identify a predatory open access journal?

One of the primary concerns with unethical publishers is that they accept articles with little or no peer review or any kind of quality control. An author may only be notified of any potential fees after the item has been accepted. An author should not hand over his/her copyright to an open access journal but instead grant a non-exclusive license to the work in question. This means that the author retains the copyright and can use the material elsewhere. Highly aggressive marketing for a new journal especially using phishing/spam emails to lure researchers in is another really bad sign. Sometimes these unethical journals will list editorial board members who have not agreed to be on the board or who are then not allowed to subsequently resign. Some sites will mimic the name or website style of more established journals in an attempt to fool potential authors.

Beall’s list of Predatory Open Access publishers  is useful but has been subject to criticism because a list is always subjective; this particular one relies heavily on publishers’ websites and can throw suspicion on legitimate start up publishers simply because they have poor copy-editing and design. Beall has also expressed his condemnation of the open access movement describing it “as being about anti-corporatism” demonstrating a definite bias against open access journals.

Authors are starting to help themselves. Dr. Neal Haddaway has developed Journalysis to help academic authors to document their experience with publishers, highlighting the good ones and exposing the bad.

Indicators of a quality Journal

Scope of the journal, its primary audience is researchers/practitioners, reputation of editorial board, societal/institutional affiliations. All charging is transparent and upfront and clearly explained on the website. There is a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) or an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) which indicates the journal keeps to international standards.   The publisher is a member of OASPA  : the Open Access Scholarly Association. The journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals  though be cautious here as some predatory journals have slipped through the net. The copyright statement indicates that it can be shared and disseminated, not just read. The journal clearly indicates rights for use and re-use of content at the article level (eg. Has a Creative Commons license attached)

Indicators of a poor quality journal

The journal or publisher website is hard to find or identify. If it is easily found there is no “About” information. There is no clear statement of intent, and if there is, there is no information on peer review and copyright. Most reputable publishers are not aggressive in their marketing and do not use spamming techniques.  There should be no hidden charges and all charges should be upfront and clearly explained. If it doubt consult a listserve in your discipline or ask your local librarian. 

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