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Copyright for Students

What Rights do Authors/Creators Have?

Who owns the copyright?

Initially the author(s)/creator(s) own the copyright.

BUT many publishers ask the author/creator to sign over most or all their rights to them.

Authors can retain rights to their work, but they have to negotiate with the publishers when the materials are submitted or accepted for publication.

Many Duke faculty publications, especially older works, are not owned by the author.

In some cases the institution may own the work, if an employee (not a faculty member) did the work as part of their job.

This is called "work for hire" so often manuals, Web pages, etc. are owned by the institution and not the individual creator.

 The Duke Scholarly Communications Office has a FAQ on managing copyright rights for your own work.  

What are author's rights under the law?

Under the law, copyright holders are given these "exlusive" rights, which means that others cannot use these rights without seeking permission.

- to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies (including, typically, electronic copies)
- to import or export the work
- to create derivative works (works that adapt the original work)
- to perform or display the work publicly
- to sell or assign these rights to others
- to transmit or display by radio or video

Authors can give up their rights and often do to publishers who then become the copyright holder.  Unless the author retains certain rights, they cannot distribute or even post a PDF or copy of their work without seeking permission from the publisher.

How can I retain my rights?

SPARC has created very useful information on Author's Rights and why and how to retain them.

 How can I share my work but keep control of it?

- Negotiate with publishers for the right to post and share copies of your work -- again see the SPARC guide for authors  on how to do this

- Ask the publisher for the rights to participate in the Duke open access policy for depositing your work in the Duke repository

- Choose an Open Access publication which provides everyone with immediate and free access to your work -- there is a list of OA journals that may help

- Make your work available through a Creative Commons license, which is an alternative to copyright and its restrictions