Participatio is now Open Access

Effective immediately, the Executive Board of the T. F. Torrance Theological Fellowship, the Editor of Participatio, and the bibliographers and webmasters of this site have all agreed to distribute the resources produced by the Fellowship, including Participatio, under a Creative Commons (CC) license.  This decision is both prospective and retroactive; past issues of Participatio will be converted to bear this notice, including on every article page.

Executive Summary

Since its inception, Participatio has been distributed online in order to have the greatest impact, but as with print journals of old, it was restricted by copyright. Unfortunately, copyright reserves all rights, including the rights of reproduction and distribution. Open Access licensing offers an alternative approach that adequately protects the rights we want to protect while simultaneously allowing Participatio to have the greater visibility and impact we have intended from the beginning. One common method for Open Access distribution is a Creative Commons license. The Creative Commons "CC-by-nc-sa” license, now adopted for Participatio, requires attribution (“by”), prohibits commercial redistribution without permission (“nc”), and requires distribution of derivatives to be "shared alike" under the same terms (“sa”). This license now expressly allows, for instance, teachers to share Participatio content in a course packet, so long as they provide attribution and do not make money on it. Course packet use without express permission from the TFTTF was previously strictly prohibited under copyright. More open policies encouraging uses like this, of course, increase the visibility of the journal.

Participatio is a peer-reviewed research journal, sponsored by an academic society, distributed globally via the Internet, without subscription, under a Creative Commons license that removes access barriers, as a professional service to faculty, students and the general public.  By changing the distribution of Participatio from copyright to a Creative Commons license we are now compliant with the Berlin Declaration on Open Access (2003) and the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002). For these reasons, Participatio now qualifies as a so-called “Gold Open Access” Journal, and becomes eligible for consideration by Open Access journal directories, platforms and indexes, which over the long term will further increase its reach and discoverability.


The number of “open access” (OA) journals is growing rapidly, both in the humanities and in the natural sciences.  According the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), there are now 12,547 open access journals representing 129 Countries which offer a total of 3,743,695 articles.

We are constructing the website of the T. F. Torrance Theological Fellowship with an emphasis on open distribution, offering ever-increasing access to online content:

  • Participatio.
  • Sources Bibliography.
  • Attachments to bibliography records:  PDFs, images, audio and video files which are distributed by the T. F. Torrance Theological Fellowship either on an open access basis or with permission.
  • Links to resources available elsewhere online.
  • Essays and other content, such as the various items available under the Start Here tab (e.g., Elmer Colyer’s Reader’s Guide and Life of T. F. Torrance, and “The Legacy of the Gospel” article by Jock Stein).

Some resources offered by the website are not distributed publicly, such as the Member Profiles and Mentor Profiles, but our default setting is open access.  Yet until now, Participatio represented a middle position:  It is distributed online, in order to have the greatest impact, but it was restricted by copyright.  Yet copyright, which reserves all rights, was overkill for Participatio, for Creative Commons licensing offers an alternative approach that adequately protects the rights we want to protect while simultaneously allowing it to have a greater visibility and impact.

Creative Commons — Between “All Rights Reserved” and Public Domain

In contrast to public domain, copyright asserts “all rights reserved” for a work. The rights reserved under copyright span the following five areas:

  1. Right to reproduce
  2. Right to prepare a derivative work
  3. Right to distribute copies to the public
  4. Right to perform publicly
  5. Right to display publicly

Actions infringing upon any of these then require express permission.  With copyright, it’s all or nothing.

The legal basis of Open Access, and of Creative Commons or CC, is the consent of the copyright holder. It does not infringe copyright law or make copyright law obsolete. CC is not "Napster for journals." Within the boundaries of copyright law, the Creative Commons license grants permission for any or all of the rights listed above. 

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC-by-nc-sa)

This CC license grants permission to any use that provides attribution, that is not commercial in nature, and that shares any derivative product with the same or fewer restrictions.  For example, the CC-by-nc-sa license allows teachers and others to share and distribute Participatio content in a course packet, so long as they provide attribution and do not make money on it.  “Course packet” use without express permission from the TFTTF was strictly prohibited by our previous copyright protocol.  More open policies encouraging uses like this, of course, increase the visibility of the journal.

Yet Creative Commons is not a license for “anything goes.” The “Non-Commercial” tag does NOT allow a teacher or publisher to package a portion of Participatio content up in an anthology for sale at a profit. Non-profit course packets are allowed, but the NC tag reserves commercial publication rights, thus preventing a publisher from republishing any Participatio content without express permission.  It does NOT prevent an author or the Fellowship from publishing a revised version, but rather prohibits anyone else from doing so.

To be clear, authors always retain copyright over their individual articles rather than transferring copyright to the TFTTF. Creative Commons just specifies how they wish to license it, to the TFTTF and to others, so a library or other entity doesn’t have to go to the hassle of negotiating a permission agreement. As part of the article submission process, Participatio editors will obtain a signed agreement with each author that licenses their copyright to the TFTTF according to the CC-by-nc-sa license.  This license will then be applied both to Participatio volumes as a whole and to the individual articles.

For a further explanation of what the license means, see the Permissions page.

Why?  Benefits and further considerations.

Copyright strictly prohibits the distribution and sharing of Participatio content by others, except for very limited scenarios of fair use. As noted above, because copyright reserves all rights including the right of distribution, conscientious teachers could not previously legally share Participatio articles in their course packets. Libraries negotiate permissions for such uses, usually in a manner hidden to individual instructors, just as they provide access to subscription online resources in a hidden fashion.  A CC license abrogates the need for individuals to negotiate to obtain express written permission. 

If copyright (like sports) is big business for major publishers and universities, it seems less appropriate for a small academic society.  Rather, sponsoring Open Access (OA) content, including an OA journal, is an exemplary mission for an academic society.  We don’t need copyright to protect a lucrative business model.  Adopting a CC license allows more open distribution of Participatio content, yet with attribution still required.

Journals like the Public Library of Science (PLoS) have adopted open access in order to achieve the widest possible distribution (global); widest possible readership (interdisciplinary); and the widest possible impact. Organizations like Sparc ( document open access benefits including greater visibility, increased citation rates and other measures of increased impact. (Here’s one study:

Participatio is a peer-reviewed research journal, sponsored by an academic society, distributed globally via the Internet, without subscription, removing access barriers as a professional service to faculty, students and the general public.  For these reasons, it qualifies as a so-called “Gold OA” Journal.  By changing the distribution of Participatio from copyright to a Creative Commons license we are now compliant with the Berlin Declaration on Open Access (2003) and the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002). The latter states:

“There are many degrees and kinds of wider and easier access to this literature. By 'open access' to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

For these and other reasons, the T. F. Torrance Theological Fellowship now chooses to adopt a Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons License
Unless otherwise indicated, this website and its resources, including Participatio, are licensed by the T. F. Torrance Theological Fellowship under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For additional information see Permissions.