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Author Rights

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Terms to Know

Copyright: Copyright law protects creative works. Works protected by copyright law include books, journal articles, websites, blogs, photographs, films, videos, audio & visual recordings, and software programs.

Publishing Contract: When publishing in a journal, the publisher will either have a publishing agreement or a copyright transfer agreement.

Embargo:  A period of time where the publication or dissemination of a work is delayed.

Creative Commons Licenses:  A Creative Commons license can apply to all works that are protected by copyright law. With a Creative Commons license you can communicate to others how they can use your work while retaining full copyright of your work. 

Your Author Rights

  • You own what you create. As the author of a work you are automatically the copyright holder. Copyright registration is not required.
  • You retain your copyright unless you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement, such as a journal publisher.
  • The copyright holder controls the work. 
  • Transferring copyright doesn't have to be "all or nothing." You can negotiate publishing agreements, or utilize licenses that allow you to retain your copyright while allowing others to use you work in certain ways. 
  • Giving your copyright to a publisher could hinder your future uses of your work.

Creative Commons Licenses

With a Creative Commons license you keep your copyright, but communicate to others how they can use your work.

For example:

Are you fine with someone using your work for any purpose (classroom teaching, translation, sharing online), but don't want them to be able to use it commercially? CC-BY-NC is the right license for you.

Do you want to allow others to copy, distribute, remix, or perform your work without restrictions? Use CC-BY!

Perhaps you're fine with your research being copied, distributed, and shared, but don't want it to be translated or used for commercial purposes. Then CC-BY-ND is the right license for you.

This Creative Commons license generator will help you choose what Creative Commons license you need.

Publishing Contract Negotiations

Traditionally authors signed all their rights away with a copyright transfer agreement, but you don't need to give away your rights as an author. Publishers only need the first right of publication. This means that authors can retain their rights to legally:

  • use your work in class
  • display a copy on your website
  • distribute a copy to colleagues or at conferences
  • use your work in future projects

To retain your rights, create an amendment by adding a Scholar's Copyright Addendum to your publishing contract.