Copyright Conundrums: Author Rights

Editor’s Note: For this month’s edition of Copyright Conundrums, we are pleased to bring you the following post from guest blogger, Sarah Norris, Scholarly Communications Librarian at UCF. Sarah is the University Libraries’ resident expert in all things related to scholarly communication and open access outreach efforts. You can find out more about Sarah, including her contact information, on the UCF Libraries page.

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In the Copyright Conundrums blog posts series, we discussed the basics of copyright and answered some of your frequently asked copyright questions. In this post, we’re going to expand on copyright and your rights as an author, including ways in which you can retain the copyright ownership of your work(s) when submitting them for publication.

Q: Don’t I own copyright to all of the work(s) that I author?

A: It depends. Copyright is applied to “original works of authorship” once in a tangible form; however, copyright is a bundle of rights that you, the author, can retain, give away, sell (in some circumstances), or license to others any of the following:

  • reproduce or make copies of their work
  • prepare derivative works based on their work
  • sell, rent, or lease copies of their work
  • perform their work publicly
  • display their work publicly (e.g., images, videos)
  • perform their work by a digital audio transmission (g., sound recordings)

When authors submit their work(s) for publication, they often transfer copyright of their work(s) to the publisher. This may restrict the authors’ ability to share their work with colleagues, post the full-text to online faculty profile sites such as Academia.edu, or even make copies of the work(s). It also means that your work may be less accessible to readers and only available through journal subscriptions and/or licensed databases. These are a few reasons why thoroughly reading your author agreement with a particular publisher is important.

Q: If I sign an author agreement with a publisher will I lose all of my rights as the original copyright holder of the work(s)?

A: As with our previous question, it depends. Because copyright is a bundle of rights, you can negotiate any or all components of copyright. Typically with traditional journal publisher author agreements, the author retains the right to reproduce or make copies of the work (with any clearly indicated restrictions). The publisher also often allows the author to retain copyright for any charts, tables, data, and/or images in a journal article submitted for publication. Authors may want to explore using an author addendum, which allows them to retain key rights.

For more information about author addendums: http://sparcopen.org/our-work/author-rights/brochure-html/

Q: I want to put copies of my journal articles on Academia.edu, ResearchGate, or my personal website. Is this allowed?

A: Depending on the author agreement you signed with a publisher, this may vary. In many instances, you cannot place the full-text version from the publisher’s website and/or a licensed database on such sites. You may, however, be legally allowed to place a previous version or draft of your work on these sites. One way to determine which version you are allowed to legally share on an online faculty profile site, like Academia.edu or ResearchGate, is to look on SHERPA/RoMEO: http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/index.php.

SHERPA/RoMEO is a website created and maintained by the University of Nottingham in England. It collects publisher copyright and self-archiving policies for many journals. Although it is not comprehensive, and you may have to go directly to a publisher’s website for more information, it is an excellent resource for authors to use when determining what their rights as an author in journals they have already published and/or those journals they may be interested in publishing in.

Q: Can the library assist me with my author agreement?

A: While the neither the Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library or the John C. Hitt Library can offer legal advice and/or recommendations, they can offer some assistance with publishing and author rights. For more information, we recommend setting up an appointment with us to discuss.

Remember, the information provided here does not constitute legal advice and should not substitute for actual legal advice. For more copyright information, please see the copyright guide provided by UCF’s John C. Hitt Library, which contains links to copyright policies from the UCF Office of the General Counsel, or copyright.gov.

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