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Copyright: Author's Rights

This special topic guide was created to provide basic copyright information, with a special emphasis on faculty, staff, and graduate student needs.

What copyrights does an author have?

An individual has rights to the intellectual or creative property they create.  As an author, you own the rights to your work from the moment that work takes on some fixed form, until or unless the rights are transferred to another entity. Traditional publishing contracts often assign copyright to the publisher, thus limiting how and where the work can be used and distributed in the future. If this happens, authors may be restricted from incorporating this work into their teaching and research, posting it to a website, or in an Instituational repository or digital collection. 

The purpose of this page is to provide information about author's rights and to provide additional resources for further information.

How can I not own the copyright to my work?

This article describes one person's experience with rights.

Relevant U.S. Code

Blogs on Author Rights

Creative Commons License Generator

Creative Commons allows authors to customize how they want to dessiminate their work to the world - Click here to find out more!

Author's rights: An explanation

Here's a brief explanation of how your rights as an author may be impacted by publication

How to Protect Your Copyrights

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is a great source of information on author's rights, including this AUTHOR'S ADDENDUM . This addendum is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows authors to keep key rights.

For Example: To secure sufficient rights to deposit the work in  Digital  Collections@TxState and to reuse their own work, the author could modify the language  of the standard publishing agreement as follows:

“Notwithstanding the above language, I reserve the right to use this work in my teaching and research, for my colleagues at the Texas State University – San Marcos to use this work in their teaching and research, and I also reserve the right to place an electronic copy of this work on a publicly accessible web site.”

Bernard Becker Medical Library, Washington University School of Medicine, provides an informative list of phrases to look for in publisher copyright agreement forms. The document lists examples of rights and stipulations in various copyright agreement forms.

Resources for Authors

  • How researchers benefit from sharing
    "Scholars can gain tremendous professional benefits from expanded dissemination of their work. Beyond the convenience and speed of more open scholarly exchange, a growing body of evidence indicates that articles that are freely available on the Internet have greater impact."
  • The citation advantage of open-access articles
    Abstract -- "Four subjects - ecology, applied mathematics, sociology, and economics - were selected to assess whether there is a citation advantage between journal articles that have an open-access (OA) version on the Internet compared to those articles that are exclusively toll access (TA). Citations were counted using the Web of Science, and the OA status of articles was determined by searching OAIster, OpenDOAR, Google, and Google Scholar."
  • Navigating Publisher Agreements: How to Retain Your Rights without Losing Your Contract
    "One way you can modify your publishing agreement is to ask your publisher to attach an “Author Addendum” to your contract. One example of such an addendum was developed by SPARC in partnership with Creative Commons3—a legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles." You can download the SPARC Author Addendum here.
  • A field guide to misunderstandings about open access
    "The woods are full of misunderstandings about OA. They thrive in almost every habitat, and the population soars whenever a major institution adopts an OA policy. Contact between new developments and new observers who haven’t followed the annual migrations always results in a colorful boomlet of young misunderstandings."
  • Create Change Website
    Create Change was developed by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and is supported by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). One particularly relevant section is "Making change work for you" as an author.
  • Create Change Brochure
    “The traditional system of scholarly communication is not working. Libraries and their institutions worldwide can no longer keep up with the increasing volume and cost of scholarly resources.”
  • NIH Public Access Frequently Asked Questions
    This addresses the NIH Public Access Policy. This report from the ARL is also relevant -- "Complying with the NIH Public Access Policy: Copyright Considerations and Options"
  • Open Doors and Open Minds (concerns the Harvard case)
    "On February 12, 2008, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) at Harvard University took a landmark step. The faculty voted to adopt a policy requiring that faculty authors send an electronic copy of their scholarly articles to the university’s digital repository and that faculty authors automatically grant copyright permission to the university to archive and to distribute these articles unless a faculty member has waived the policy for a particular article.
  • Publisher copyright policies & self-archiving
    "Use this site to find a summary of permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher's copyright transfer agreement."
  • Doing science in the open
    "Online networking tools are pervasive, but why have scientists been so slow to adopt many of them? Michael Nielsen explains how we can build a better culture of online collaboration."
  • eScholarship: Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication
    "Since 2005, the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE), with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has been conducting research to understand the needs and practices of faculty for in-progress scholarly communication as well as archival publication."
  • 7 Things You Should Know About Open Textbook Publishing
    "The open educational resources model, including textbooks, has emerged as a response to rising text prices, a need for greater access to high-quality learning materials, the proliferation of e-reader devices, and a trend in publishing toward electronic media. Many contend that educational resources should be open and that instructional models increasingly depend on open content."

Legal Disclaimer

This guide is designed to share information on copyright and related topics. This guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

Creative Commons License/Copyright Statement