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Ownership Rights

Authors retain the copyright to their works until they assign it to someone else. The decision to assign copyright is serious and has many implications.

As an author, you are granted the following exclusive rights under the U.S. Copyright Law:

  • To reproduce the work
  • To distribute the work
  • To publicly perform or display your work
  • To prepare derivative works

It is up to you as to whether you will assign all of those rights, some of them, or none of them to a publisher.

  • The author is the copyright holder
    As the author of a work you are the copyright holder unless and until you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement.
  • Assigning your rights matters
    Normally, the copyright holder possesses the exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and modification of the original work. An author who has transferred copyright without retaining these rights must ask permission unless the use is included in one of the statutory exemptions in copyright law.
  • The copyright holder controls the work
    Decisions concerning use of the work, such as distribution, access, pricing, updates, and any use restrictions belong to the copyright holder. Authors who have transferred their copyright without retaining any rights may not be able to place the work on course Web sites, copy it for students or colleagues, deposit the work in an institutional repository or public online archive, or reuse portions in a subsequent work.
  • Transferring copyright doesn't have to be all or nothing.
    The law allows you to transfer copyright while holding back rights for yourself and others. The SPARC Author Addendum PDF document represents one model of a compromise agreement.

Before publishing your work...

  • Carefully examine the pricing, copyright, and subscription licensing agreements of any journal you contribute to as an author, reviewer, or editor.
  • Where possible, publish in open-access journals with funding models that do not charge readers or their institutions for access. Serve on editorial boards or review manuscripts for open-access journals. See the Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Modify, if appropriate, any contract you sign with a publisher to ensure your right to use your work, including posting on a public archive. See the Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine
  • Use a Creative Commons license to mark your work with the freedoms you want it to carry.


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