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Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.
Open Access in a Nutshell
Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free from most copyright and licensing restrictions. Once an author or copyright-holder consents to making her work free on the Internet minimal or no restrictions then attach to the work.
In most fields of education, scholarly journals do not pay authors, who can therefore consent to OA without losing revenue. In this respect, scholars and scientists are very differently situated from most musicians and movie-makers who are very interested in protecting their work and their royalties. For most scholarly fields, controversies have not surfaced concerning research literature.
OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance. Just as authors of journal articles donate their labor, so do most journal editors and referees participating in peer review.
OA literature is not free to produce, even if it is less expensive to produce than conventionally published literature. The question is not whether scholarly literature can be made available at no charge, but whether there are better ways to pay the bills than by charging readers and creating access barriers. Business models for paying the bills depend on how OA is delivered.
For a longer introduction, with live links for further reading, see Peter Suber's Open Access Overview.