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This guide is not intended to be legal advice. It is designed to provide general information about copyright to consider while researching and teaching in the health care field.

The Duke Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication can provide additional guidance to Duke faculty, researchers, and students.

Who Owns the Copyright?

Initially the author(s)/creator(s) own the copyright to their work, however many publishers ask the author/creator to sign over most or all their rights to them.

As an author, you can retain rights to your work, but you 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.

What are author's rights under the law?

Under the law, copyright holders are given the following exclusive 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.

Retaining Authors' Rights

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

Additional Resources:

Registering Your Work