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Copyright for Authors & Creators: Author Rights

A guide for students, staff, and faculty members on author rights and copyright.

Author Rights

If you are the author of a work you are the copyright owner UNLESS you hae signed away the rights to the work. The U.S Copyright Law grants the copyright owner a set of exclusive rights to their work, including the right to:

  • reproduce copies of the work
  • distribute copies of the work to the public
  • prepare derivative works based on the work
  • publicly perform the work
  • publicly display the work

The law also gives the owner/copyright holder the ability to give the rights to a publisher or share the work by licensing it to users.

Many publishers ask author(s) to grant them exclusive rights when publishing their work. This results in in significantly restricted rights for the author to share their own work with colleagues and students, or to allow others to use. You will now have to ask for permission to use your own work. Retain the rights you need.

Do you want to...

  • share it on Blackboard
  • copy it for students and colleagues
  • add it to the Academic Archive
  • control access, distribution and pricing

Keep this in mind when working with the publisher.

Some funding agencies and institutions mandate that you make your research publicly accessible. To comply with this many research need to retain certain rights. 

The publisher may not need or require all exclusive rights and will agree to allow you to retain some rights. Don't be afraid to negotiate! It never hurts to ask. 

At the least, request the right to use your work in the classroom, at conferences and seminars, and/or on the university website and institutional repository.

Read your publishing agreement carefully and make sure the rights you request are included. Maintain a record of all correspondence and signed copies of the agreement.

If you need assistance contact Caitlin Rookey

What is Open Access?

The definition is frequently evolving, but most frequently considered to mean that works "be freely accessible online which scholars five to teh world without expectation of payment" per The Budapest Open Access Initiative.

Many research universities are participating in the open access initiative and encourage faculty to do the same. Princeton University faculty approved an "open access" policy in 2011 to grant the university copyright of their works, as long as they were not sold by the university for a profit. 

Joint works are created by more than one author and result in co-ownership. For example, a article has two authors that contributed to create the work. The law automatically divides the ownership 50/50. If they authors wish to have an unequal division of rights and ownership, they will have to develop a written agreement.

This is a very complex part of the copyright law, so it is important to think ahead and make sure that all contributor ownership is kept in writing to avoid future headache. 

Takedown Requests

Simply contacting a user that is using your work without permission and discussing the use with them often results in an agreement without legal issues arising. 

When that is not the case, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) protects copyrighted items in digital mediums. The law includes the DMCA Takedown Notice which is a method for copyright owners to request an Internet Service Provider (ISP), search engine, or host to remove their copyrighted material. You do not have to have registered copyright to issue a request.

Before continuing the process, make sure that you:

  • Own the copyright
  • Check that the use on the website does not fall under an exception, like fair use
  • Content is capable of being infringed online (is in a digital form)
    • Text (TXT, DOC, DOCx, PDF, PPT, etc.)
    • Images (BMP, JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, etc.)
    • Video (MPG, MOV, QuickTime, RealPlayer, etc.)
    • Audio (MP3, MP4, WAV, AU, etc.)
    • Image on social media

If the use of your work by the infringer checks all of the boxes, you can start your takedown notice. Lawyer and blogger Sara Hawkins gives incredibly useful tips for writing your DCMA Takedown Request. See the link below for her article and a fill in the blank DCMA Takedown Request document.

How to register for copyright protection

Copyright is automatically assigned to a work at creation, so it isn't entirely necessary to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. It is still a good idea to register your work to solidify your claim to copyright and make it easier for you to be identified as the owner of the work.

Registration is an easy process and the application fee is $35 per work. For multiple creators, multiple works, or choreography the fee is $55. Be advised-the processing time for online registrations is up to 8 months.


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 This content is under a Creative Commons License that requires attribution to Texas Wesleyan University.