Copyright at USU

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Retaining your Copyright


Why & How

  • Rights are essential for reusing and sharing your work
  • As an author, you automatically own copyright for your works unless the work was done for hire for an employer who then holds the rights. Holding copyright means you can reuse or share your work. As author, you have the exclusive right to:

    • Copy the work (i.e. photocopies)
    • Distribute copies of the work
    • Create derivative works
    • Publicly perform or display the work
    • Authorize others to do any of the above

  • Rights are easy to lose
  • You can easily lose these rights, by signing them away in a publisher's agreement. Signing a publisher's agreement may transfer some or all of your rights to the publisher. This can prevent you from reusing your own work in a subsequent work, from putting it on course Web sites, copying it for students or colleagues, or depositing it in a public online archive. As John Willinsky has pointed out in his First Monday article (v.7, Nov. 4, 2002) “Why the publisher requires the complete transfer of ownership is not at all clear, when what is at issue for the journal is first publication rights.” To check the rights policies of your publisher, go to the SherpaRomeo website.


  • You may be obligated to keep your rights
  • If your work was funded by an agency such as National Institute of Health (NIH), you may be required to deposit work into a repository such as PubMed Central. Check under requirements at Sherpa/Juliet.


  • Adding an addendum: A way to get published and keep your rights too
  • You can still sign a publisher's agreement and retain some rights by adding an addendum to the agreement. The SPARC Author Addendum is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher's agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles. For more information, see http://www.arl.org/sparc/author/addendum.shtml.


  • 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. Here are some ways to hold back rights:

    • Edit the publishers agreement: Publishers often will accept changed agreements: edit wording of contract so that instead of granting “exclusive” rights to the publisher, you grant “non-exclusive” rights. Initiate the changes and submit a signed copy to the publisher.
    • Add the SPARC author addendum.
    • Use a Creative Commons license in place of the license provided by the publisher.

  • Creating your own license
  • Creative Commons is "a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build up the work of others." It provides six free licenses to designate how authors want to share their work.


  • Giving your work added protection
  • You can give your work added protection by registering it with the U.S. Copyright Office for a fee. Registering works make them a matter of public record and provide the author with a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Registration may be particularly advisable in the case of creative works such as movies and recorded music that are prone to infringement. Such works may also be preregistered if its creation is in process and may take some time to complete.


  • Joint Authorship
  • Joint authors own their work equally unless they have signed an agreement otherwise. Each author has the right to exercise any of the author rights without the consent of the other joint authors.


  • Music
    1. Why and How
    2. Retaining your copyright over your musical works will give you more control over how people use your musical creations. This video, Music Publishing 101, is an introduction to rights of copyright holders in music publishing.

      Music Copyright Basics:

      • As soon as you fix your musical creation in a tangible form by writing down lyrics or music you own the copyright, however there are additional steps one should take to safeguard your work.
      • It is helpful if you register your work with the Library of Congress register your work and with a Performing Rights Organization.
    3. Rights of Copyright holders
      • Exclusive rights include how the work is used
        • Right to reproduce
        • Distribute
        • Make derivative works
        • Public Performance
        • Public Display
      • Exceptions
        • Compulsory mechanical licenses provision
          • Once copyright holder has recorded the work and distributed-- anyone else can do a cover of the song

      Understanding Copyright Law and Exclusive Rights (Video)

    4. Creative Commons- You may choose to license your work at http://creativecommons.org/
    5. Joint Authorship
      • When creating musical works, parties involved need to decide on how to divide rights.

  • Art
    1. Why and How
    2. Retaining your copyright over your artistic works will give you more control over how people use your creations.

      • As soon as you create your work of art you own the copyright, however there are additional steps you should take to safeguard your work
      • It is helpful if you register your work with the Library of Congress register your work and visit the Artists Rights Society for more information. The American Society of Media Photographers has created a podcast on the best practices for registering photographic works.
    3. Rights of Copyright holders
      • Exclusive rights include how the work is used
        • Right to reproduce
        • Distribute
        • Make derivative works
        • Public Performance
        • Public Display
    4. Creative Commons- You may choose to license your work at http://creativecommons.org/
    5. Joint Authorship
      • Joint Authorship