Open Access is defined as "literature that is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions."
-Peter Suber, Open Access Overview
Although digitization and the internet have made much information available to a larger audience, scholarly sources still face restrictions due to copyright and journal and database pricing. Open access ideally seeks to break down those barriers so that more people have access to information.
Ideally, this means the material is available freely online, enabling the user to access, download, share, link to, and distribute. In these situations, the author has given permission for this use as long as the user provides the author with acknowledgement and citation.
Gold Open: Authors submit their work to a peer-reviewed open access journal, often allowing the author to retain rights to the work. In some instances the OA Journals require a publication fee from the author, often paid by the employer.
Green OA: Authors deposit articles into repositories, providing immediate open access to their work. Repositories are often organized by discipline or institution. These repositories do not perform peer review but often host articles that have been through the peer review process. Repositories may include preprints, postprints, or a combination of the two.