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Author's rights is often just another way of referring to copyright, and it includes the suite of exclusive rights granted to the creators of original works. It is important to understand the mechanisms that either preserve or threaten those author's rights.

Copyrighting Your Own Work

In the United States, a work is protected by copyright as soon as it is "fixed in a tangible medium" (assuming it is an original expression). Copyright registration of works created within the United States is not required for protection, but the author/creator may wish to officially register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office, as registration is necessary before you can bring a suit of copyright infringement, and timely registration gives you the right to claim statutory damages in an infringement suit.

You may also wish to consider licensing your work instead through  Creative Commons (CC). A CC license allows you to keep all your rights and inform users under what conditions you allow they to use your work.

Negotiating Your Rights

Some publishers require you to sign away your copyright in exchange for publishing and distributing your work. These contracts are typically referred to as a "Copyright Transfer Agreement" or "Publication Agreement."  You can negotiate with publishers in order to retain some or all control over your copyright.  You can retain individual rights from the many exclusive rights of copyright holders, such as the ability to post your work on a personal website, insitutional repository, or to use the work in classroom contexts. A full transfer of copyright can mean losing all further reproduction or dissemination of your work, and could require you to seek permissions from the publisher for some future uses of your work. Further, libraries pay ever-higher prices to buy back access to the work given to the publisher. 

By retaining your rights, you will be permitted to:

  • Maintain the right to disseminate your work
  • Maintain the right to use your work in your classes
  • Maintain the right to post your work on your own website
  • Maintain the right to post and archive your work in your Institutional Repository
  • Reserve the right to post the pre-refereed or even post-refereed version of your paper
  • Allow for the largest possible audience

For help understanding the strengths and weaknesses of specific agreements, contact

Open Access

Open Access (OA) is  is a mechanism by which research outputs are distributed online, free of cost or other access barriers. Authors of open access works retain copyright of thier works and often publish under a Creative Commons license. Learn more about open access.

Author's Rights Resources