Gold open access and green open access: what's the difference?

Gold open access is where an author publishes their article in an online open access journal. In contrast, green open access is where an author publishes their article in any journal and then self-archives a copy in a freely accessible institutional or specialist online archive known as a repository, or on a website.

In terms of the requirements set by funding bodies and individual institutions, both possibilities can be considered to be of equal value, with just a few exceptions. 

Gold open access

Overall, gold open access has the key advantage of making publications freely accessible right from the moment they are first published, which means they can be used immediately. In addition, the open content licenses associated with gold open access grant wide-ranging exploitation rights, plus the immediate availability also achieves a level of visibility which has a positive impact on how widely a publication is disseminated and how frequently it is cited. 

Green open access

Green open access does not offer the same legal framework for content licensing. As a result, exploitation is only permitted within the confines of the legal restrictions of copyright law. That means that the author's contract has to be carefully reviewed to enable an article to be re-used in a way that fulfils all the legal stipulations. There is no uniform rule governing the open accessibility of publications because different publishing houses impose different embargo periods before making the articles freely available. 

See also

How do Creative Commons licenses work?


Important note: The information and links provided here do not represent any form of binding legal advice. They are solely intended to provide an initial basis to help get you on the right track. ZB MED – Information Centre for Life Sciences has carefully checked the information included in the list of FAQs. However, we are unable to accept any liability whatsoever for any errors it may contain. Unless indicated otherwise, any statements concerning individual statutory norms or regulations refer to German law (as of 10/2014).


Dr. Jasmin Schmitz
Open Access Advisory Services

Phone: Tel: +49 (0)221 478-32795
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