The following series of points offers an overview of critical principles related to the ownership and management of newly created works at the university. Many of the ownership issues are addressed in university policies. The issue of copyright ownership, however, has quickly become more than an application of legal principles. Innovations in the management of copyrights, notably the movement toward open access of scholarship and the widespread use of Creative Commons licenses, are important alternatives for academic authors to consider in connection with managing their creative works.

Who Owns the Copyright

How do I become a copyright owner?

In general, copyright protection vests automatically with the creator of an original work that is fixed in a tangible medium.

Can copyright ownership be transferred?

Yes, the "bundle" of rights encompassed in a copyright can be transferred in part or in whole to another party.

What is a "work made for hire"?

While copyright generally vests with the author of a work, this is not necessarily the case if the work is made within the scope of the author’s employment.

How does "work for hire" apply to universities?

In the interest of promoting scholarship and the dissemination of works, many Universities have established copyright ownership policies that allow the original creator of a work to retain the copyright in certain circumstances.

Securing Your Copyright

What copyright notice should I put on my works?

U.S. Copyright law no longer requires a formal notice to be placed on a work for copyright protection to be granted, but creators of works may still add such a notice for practical and legal reasons.

Should I include "All Rights Reserved" in the copyright notice?

The term "all rights reserved" used to be of legal significance when securing copyright protection in some countries, but is no longer required to obtain protection of one’s work in most nations.

How do I register my copyrights?

U.S. Copyright law no longer requires registration of an author’s copyright to receive copyright protection. However, registration is still available through the U.S. Copyright Office and is often worth securing for practical and legal reasons.

Managing Your Copyrights

How do I grant permission to others?

Apart from transferring the copyright, the copyright owner may grant permission to another party to use the work on terms that the owner may specify. Permission is sometimes called a “license” and it may be exclusive or nonexclusive.

Can I include a statement on the work to grant permission?

The copyright owner may, in addition to granting individual permissions, grant a general permission to use the work by placing a statement of such permission directly on the work.

Can I include a statement on the work to restrict use?

A copyright owner may place a statement directly on the work restricting particular uses of the work. Such statements, however, are not always enforceable.

Do I have rights to my published work?

The rights an author retains in his or her work depend on the exact terms of the agreement with the publisher.  It is essential for authors to understand the rights they retain and give away when negotiating copyright agreements with publishers. Authors should always keep a copy of any agreement.

Guidance for Authors in Negotiating Publisher Agreements

Can I negotiate publishing agreements?

Yes, you certainly can negotiate. Authors need to understand the rights they retain and forfeit when signing publishing agreements. Authors are encouraged to retain certain rights in order to use their work in future scholarship or educational pursuits.

Am I required to include any particular terms in my publishing agreement?

Maybe. If you are publishing an article with funding from the National Institutes of Health, you may be required by law to retain the rights to deposit a copy with PubMed Central. You may have other obligations under the terms of your research grant.

What other terms might be advisable to include in my publishing agreement?

You should consider various terms that reserve rights to you, as an author, to have some rights to control and use your work, and to facilitate access to your work by researchers. A model agreement used by some journals based at Columbia University has a variety of such provisions you might consider adopting.


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