Glossary created by Berkman Center team

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Open Access

Open access is a term describing an information resource that is open to all.

It also refers to a movement within the academic community dedicated to making scholarly research more accessible, rather than hidden behind a price or permission barriers.

“Open access” journals are not necessarily free, since they may charge a fee for maintenance costs, or to compensate authors, but typically an open access resource is free to all to read and use. Journals that ask for some payment are sometimes called “hybrid” access journals.

Harvard University recently adopted a policy where all of its faculty are permitted and encouraged to make their research available as open access. The U.S. National Institutes of Health has an open access policy requiring all research conducted with public funding to make its results open access, at least after a short interval of exclusivity.

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Original expression

Original expression refers to a creator’s original, copyrightable, creative work.

This is in contrast to any later derivative works, other later work that in some way incorporates the original work, or work that isn’t original at all. Expression that is not original cannot qualify for copyright.

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Orphan works

Orphan works are creative works that are still under copyright protection, but for which it is either impossible or prohibitively difficult to identify the copyright holder.

This is most often a problem with photographs on the Internet, but arises with other types of works as well. Since the works are under copyright, permission is need to use them, but since the rights-holder cannot be found, no permission can be obtained. This puts these works into a sort of limbo. People want to make use of them, but usually won’t for fear of liability, and the works cannot pass into the public domain until the term of their copyright expires.

The settlement with the Author’s Guild in the Google Book Search lawsuit contains controversial provisions for orphan works, although it does not refer to them by that term. These terms are the subject of much debate and opposition worldwide.

Orphan works legislation has also been proposed at several different times in the U.S. Congress.

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