Why has the journal Mutations en Méditerranée (MeM) chosen the Creative Commons CC-BY license?

Source : Pixabay ; personnalisation de l’image : Mélanie Perret

Co-authored with Isabelle Gras, Open Science Unit, SCD Aix-Marseille University
Translation in English: Emma Maines

Original in French

Reminder: Creative Commons license goals and functionality

Creative Commons licenses facilitate both the distribution and sharing of knowledge, all while ensuring the protection of authors’ rights. These licenses allow the author, under certain conditions, to pre-authorize users’ potential reproductions, modifications, distributions, and uses of their original work. Fundamentally, the question is one of granting additional rights of use to those rights which apply by default, as is the case, for example, with right of quotation.

Be assured, however, the author does not relinquish their rights! Creative Commons licenses are legal instruments that allow the author to define, in advance, the specific conditions of use that they desire to establish for their work. Thus, following the choice of license, they decide which rights they wish to retain and also define which rights they are willing to surrender. Creative Commons licenses aim to encourage and facilitate the sharing of a work, as well as its free use by a third party, under the conditions set by the author.

There are six different Creative Commons licenses, all of which are based on a shared principle of openness: they authorize the reproduction, distribution and communication of a work, free of cost. Different options can then be used to modify and regulate the ways in which the work is used. All of these licenses call for the respect of a common requirement: users must cite the author of the original work.

To these six licenses, whose shared foundation lies on respect for authorship (BY), we may add the CC O license, which is especially suited to scientific data, and whose particularity is that it allows for the transferal of work into the public domain.1

Lefthand image: ranking of the different licenses, from the most open to the least open, Simon Villeneuve, April 4, 2017, CC-BY-SA 4.0;
Righthand image: table of Creative Commons licenses, economie.gouv.fr/apie/propriete-intellectuelle-publications/contenus-sous-licences-libres.

Avoiding exclusive control

One of the protections that Creative Commons licenses provide is ensuring that a person cannot take advantage of a privileged position on the market to claim the economic rights of authors for exclusive purposes, thus establishing a monopoly and making it impossible to distribute scientific publications to a wider public, including for non-commercial purposes.

By authorizing use, including for commercial purposes, the CC-BY license, allows all the actors and entities that constitute a society to access and re-use the content created by scientific publications, financed through public funds, all while respecting the required citation of authors, thus also increasing their visibility.

There subsequently exists no possibility of market domination by specific commercial entities: the latter can derive positive externalities from re-use permitted by the license, but cannot exclude other actors from also benefiting at their level. This scenario thus allows for openness and facilitates the dissemination of knowledge within society at large.

The NC – No Commercial option, can serve to impede “virtuous commercial use,” as illustrated by this example concerning Wikipedia, and referenced by Lionel Maurel in the following quote:

The project consisted of putting Wikipedia or portions of Wikipedia on USB drives, to distribute them to geographical areas lacking internet coverage, notably on the African continent. This project was in fact selling the flash drives for profit and if Wikipedia had an NC option, well, then this project could not exist, because selling the USB drives would be considered commercial use […] we must not regulate commercial use because there are instances of this type of use that are virtuous, and therefore not problematic. (Transl. Original text in footnote)2

Promoting research progress and development beyond language groups

The CC-BY license authorizes users to copy and redistribute a work, but also to adapt, rework, transform, translate and update it, thus producing a second body of work. If the user modifies the original work, they may subsequently apply the license of their choice to the derived product.

By prohibiting the modification of, adaptations to and production of derivative works (ND option – No Derivative), research progress and development is hindered. Indeed, knowledge in and of itself is fostered by accumulation, builds on the work of peers and predecessors, benefitting from increased visibility, in compliance with entitlement and in accordance with scientific research ethics.

By authorizing the modification of a work, the CC-BY license allows for translation and thus offers the possibility of overcoming language barriers, making it not only possible to disseminate research more widely, but also to encourage further potential scientific collaborations.

It should not be forgotten that the CC-BY license is based on the following principles:

  • the name of the author of the original work must be explicitly mentioned;
  • the moral rights of the original work’s author must be respected, in particular the attribution and integrity of the work;
  • users must indicate the modifications they have made to the original work by including a link to the original work.

Scientific publications, distributed under a Creative Commons license as open as the CC-BY, should expect to benefit from increased international visibility.

Plan S (Open Science): a European initiative in favor of the non-assignment of rights to scientific publications

A major feature concerning the future of journals and books is emerging within the European Union: Plan S. This initiative, led by research agencies aiming to generalize Open Access to scientific publications, seeks to: develop and make compulsory, the free, immediate, and unrestricted access to research publications and data thanks to digital opportunities.

The members of cOAlition S, including the Agence nationale de la Recherche (ANR), specify that in order to implement this strategy, publications, financed with public funds, must be immediately available in open access format, with a CC-BY license authorizing, in particular, the reproduction, distribution, communication, use (including for commercial purposes), and modification of the work. The strategy of non-assignment of rights, driven by Plan S, thus participates in a rationale seeking openness and the spread of scientific knowledge. This is also in line with the second National Plan for Open Science already implemented in France. The challenge is to guarantee the circulation of knowledge within the scientific community and beyond.



Agence nationale de la recherche, “ANR Open Science Policy”, anr.fr/en/anrs-role-in-research/commitments/open-science.

Fily, M.F. 2015, « Connaitre et utiliser les licences Creative Commons, en 6 points », Montpellier (FRA) : CIRAD, 11 p, doi.org/10.18167/xtnv-d457.

Isabelle Gras, « Contrat d’édition et licences Creative Commons », 2022, hal-03723033.

Lionel Maurel, « Pourquoi diffuser des travaux de recherche sous licence “Pas de modification” n’est pas une bonne idée », 27 avril 2020, scinfolex.com/2020/04/27/pourquoi-diffuser-des-travaux-de-recherche-sous-licence-pas-de-modification-nest-pas-une-bonne-idee, traduit de Brigitte Vezinat, “Why Sharing Academic Publications Under ‘No Derivatives’ Licenses is Misguided”, creativecommons.org/2020/04/21/academic-publications-under-no-derivatives-licenses-is-misguided, April 21, 2020.

Lionel Maurel, « Une politique de licences pour les plateformes et leurs contenus », Rencontres OpenEdition 2021, webcast.in2p3.fr/video/une-politique-de-licences-pour-les-plateformes-et-leurs-contenus-1 (à partir de 1mn30 jusqu’à 14mns15).

Additional sources

“Passport for Open Science. A Pratical Guide for PhD Students”, ouvrirlascience.fr/passport-for-open-science-a-practical-guide-for-phd-student.

« Je publie. Quels sont mes droits ? », ouvrirlascience.fr/je-publie-quels-sont-mes-droits.

« Des contrats pour la science ouverte », ouvrirlascience.fr/des-contrats-pour-la-science-ouverte.

To quote: Isabelle Gras, Mélanie Perret, “Why has the journal Mutations en Méditerranée (MeM) chosen the Creative Commons CC-BY license?”, Sociétés en Mutation en Méditerranée, 19/07/2022, https://somum.hypotheses.org/12434.

See also HAL – SoMuM : hal-03791686

  1. https://coop-ist.cirad.fr/etre-auteur/utiliser-les-licences-creative-commons/5-la-licence-cco []
  2. Original quote: « C’était un projet qui consistait à mettre Wikipédia ou des parties de Wikipédia sur des clefs USB, pour les distribuer dans des zones géographiques où il n’y a pas de couverture internet, notamment en Afrique. Et ce projet-là, en fait, vendait les clefs pour pouvoir avoir une rentabilité financière. Si Wikipédia était en NC, eh bien ce projet ne pourrait pas voir le jour, en fait, parce que le fait de vendre les clefs serait un usage commercial […] il ne faut pas contrôler les usages commerciaux parce qu’il y a des usages commerciaux qui sont vertueux, qui ne sont pas problématiques. » []

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