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Scholarly Communication: Authors' & Creators' Rights

This guide is designed to provide information on guidance on an array of important scholarly communication topics: rights, publishing, research impact and open resources.

Authors' & Creators' Rights

The journey toward better rights management as an author starts with knowing your rights as a creator. This page is here to help! Here are some essential things to know:

  • Authors have inherent rights when they create something, but they can and often do sign away these rights to publishers. Sometimes, they do so without knowing it! See the box below, "Knowing Your Rights," for more specific information on copyright for authors.
  • When negotiating a contract, therefore, it's very important to request that some of your right to copy and distribute works be retained, so that some version of it can be placed in a repository and become openly available. See the box below, "Preserving Your Rights," for more specific information.
  • When you create something, you can also apply a Creative Commons license to specify to the public how that work is to be used. See the box below, "Using Your Rights," for more information.

For more detailed information on copyright, please see the Conn College Libraries' copyright page.

Knowing Your Rights

It is vital to know a few basic things when considering your right as an author or creator.

1. U.S. copyright law grants you, as the creator of an original work, the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display or create derivative works. Copyright is automatic from the moment of creation, and does not need to be registered in order for copyright to apply. For more information on basic copyright, fair use, classroom use or other topics, please see the Conn College Libraries' guide to copyright

2. The above rights can (and often are) superseded by licenses or contracts that are agreed to by both parties. Many publisher contracts transfer the above exclusive rights (to reproduce, distribute, display, etc.) to the publisher. If you agree, this means you can give up these rights and lose control of your own workIt is vital that you read these publisher contracts carefully!

3. Rights transfer does not have to be all or nothing! You can often negotiate to retain some these rights in a non-exclusive way while still satisfying the needs of publishers. For more infomation on how to do that, see the box to the right, "Preserving Your Rights."

Preserving Your Rights

So how can you retain rights as an author/creator? You might wish to consult this brochure from SPARC, an organization dedicated to open resources. But here are some quick guidelines:

  1. Ask: What rights should I retain? Many creators wish to preserve the right to:
    - Include sections of this work in later works
    - Create derivative works/adaptations
    - Distribute copies to classes or colleagues
    - Place some version of the work in an institutional repository 
  2. Read the publisher's agreement carefully. Does it include the rights that you wish to retain? You might wish to search the journal on SHERPA/RoMEO, a UK-based resource that provides copyright and archive information about individual journals.
  3. If necessary, negotiate with the publisher, asking to include the rights you wish to retain. For ease, you can ask that the publisher include the SPARC Addendum, which preserves noncommercial rights of distribution, performance, and display, among others, along with (crucially!) the right to post the work on personal or institutional websites.

Using Your Rights

You can preserve your rights to copy, distribute and deposit your work — and ensure the right of others to do the same — by publishing the work with a Creative Commons license. These licenses serve to tell potential users what can and cannot be done with the work, and they come with a range of restrictions. 

What's more, while Creative Commons licenses can (and often are) be applied to journal articles, especially those that are published in an open access forum, they can also be applied to any kind of creative work, including born-digital creations. 

You can learn more about how to get started here — or click the video below to learn more about Creative Commons.