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Author Rights and Publishing Resources

Understand and take control of your rights as the creator of new research and scholarship

What are my rights as the creator of new work?

People often use the terms "author rights" and "literary rights" to mean copyrights. Copyrights are legal rights that attach to certain types of intellectual property. Copyrights are granted under federal law to authors of creative works at the time of the work's creation in a fixed, tangible form. Authors do not have to apply for or file a copyright.

Section 106 of the Copyright Act states that only the owner of a copyright has the authority to use the work in one of six ways (examples of each provided as bullet points):

  1. To reproduce the work
    • E.g., make physical or digital copies of your work for colleagues, students, or others
  2. To prepare derivative works based upon the work
    • ​​E.g., prepare a subsequent article, chapter, or book that builds upon their original or prior research on a particular topic
  3. To distribute copies of the work
    • ​​E.g., distribute physical or digital copies of your work to colleagues, students, or at conferences
  4. To publicly perform the work
    • E.g., s​​how video of your field work in the classroom or at conferences
  5. To publicly display the work
    • E.g., show photos, exhibits, and figures from your works in the classroom or at conferences
  6. To publicly perform sound recordings via a digital audio transmission
    • E.g., for those working with sound recordings, to digitally transmit your work (broadcast online, etc.)

NOTE: Authors are typically asked to sign legally binding contracts such as a publication agreement or a copyright transfer agreement (both legally binding contracts) usually transferring ownership of copyright to the publisher who then determines how you may use your own work. By transferring your rights to a publisher, you will lose some or all of the above rights. This guide provides background information and tools necessary to retain the rights you need to reuse your work.