University Libraries.

Copyright Corner: Your Open Access Rights

Our Rights – a Bundle of Rights


According to the US Code Title 17 Chapter 1 Section 106 scholarly authors hold exclusive copyright on all their works unless they create works under contracts that stipulate otherwise, or unless they license those rights to others.


The rights of copyright are these:

“(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;


(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;


(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;


(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;


(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and


(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.”


When we wish to have others publish our work, we must be aware of the rights we have and the rights we wish to license to others for the right to publish.


Commercial publishers solicit and accept our manuscripts for publication, then formally request our permission for copyright, usually in the past in a printed letter, but increasingly in an electronic agreement form. The copyright agreement is usually written by a specialist for the publisher, who wants to make a profit from our work.  Scholars respond to the agreements in ways ranging from handing over all the rights stated above for no compensation to using agents who negotiate for complex financial or other compensation.


Negotiating Rights With Commercial Publishers


Driven by a need to publish and establish an elite reputation, many younger scholars sign publisher agreements with little to no thought about the rights involved and this can be a mistake with far-reaching consequences. We may well want to concentrate on the copyright agreement with care and consideration so that we are not hampered by rights issues as we produce subsequent versions of our scholarship and derivative works.


There are several discussions and examples on the web regarding negotiation strategies that allow adequate rights for commercial publishers to use our work to make profit and provide venues for distribution and thus impact, and adequate rights for us to use our scholarship for our own advantages. The  Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC ) resources pages include a thorough and helpful discussion regarding negotiation. 

The Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office also has a thorough discussion to assist authors.


 We may wish to consider the possibility and consequences of developing and using open access venues for our work and to explore these possibilities for greater impact worldwide. Open access involves less traditional barriers to access due to publisher copyright restrictions and royalty fees for users/readers.


Open Access Publishing


Open access publishing includes a variety of venues that provide low or no barrier access to our work, and may therefore produce widespread impact. Some commercial publishers offer open access publications that are free to users, but the authors pay royalty fees at the time of publication.  Commercial publishers have built a variety of models to ensure their profits and at the same time to provide free access to users/readers. Other open access venues are built and maintained by non-profit organizations which publish using web-based technologies and fund such venues as part of the organization’s operations. A thorough discussion of open access publishing is provided free of charge by MIT Press and written by Peter Suber.


Whatever venues we choose to publish and distribute our work, we will be well served by managing our copyright based on strategies that enhance our advantages and place our work in venues that will provide the best access for our intended audience.


If you are interested in more information about these issues contact the library's copyright specialist, Lorre Smith, or 447-3946.


blog post created by Lorre Smith

image created on from the text of this blog post

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