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Copyright and Fair Use

This guide provides resources and information about copyright and fair use.

Author Rights

Under federal law, as an author or creator, copyrights are attached to certain types of intellectual property.  Since 1992, copyrights have been granted at the time of an author’s creation of an original expression (work) in a fixed medium. Authors/creators do not have to apply for or file a copyright.  You are the copyright holder unless you transfer some or all of your rights to another via agreement.  

An author has the right to: 

  • Reproduction – make copies of your protected work  
  • Distribution – sell or distribute your work to the public 
  • Derivative works – create adaptions (derivative works) and prepare new works based on your existing protected work 
  • Display or perform – Perform a work (such as a play) or display a work to the public 
  • License others – sell or license any of the above rights  

Often, a publication agreement will assign some or all the author’s rights to the publisher. Publishers need rights to publish and distribute your work, make it available commercially, and receive proper attribution as the journal/version of record.  

If a publishing agreement requires a complete transfer of your copyright to the publisher, you would no longer have the ability to use that work without permission. Some agreements may only require that some of your rights be transferred. Negotiating contract terms can help ensure you retain rights that are yours. Publishing open access, rather than in a traditional subscription access journal, can also be a way to retain more of your copyrights.  

Copyright Registration 

Under copyright law, a creator of an “original work” created in a “fixed tangible medium” is immediately and automatically the copyright owner of the work, and your work is protected.   

You do not need to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office because it is automatically protected. However, there can be some benefits to registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation; and registration within five years of publication is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. For more information on registration, visit the Registration Portal from the U.S. Copyright Office. 

Author Rights Resources:

Author Rights -- Scholarly Communication (Milner Library)
Overview of authors' rights from the Scholarly Communication guide, including information on negotiating publisher agreements, contract terms, and other resources. 

Scholars Copyright Addendum Engine
From Creative Commons, a tool tool that will help you generate a PDF form you can attach to a journal publisher's copyright agreement.

Gives information on publisher open access policies from around the world and provides summaries of self-archiving permissions and conditions of rights given to authors on a journal-by-journal basis.

SPARC--Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Collection 
Global coalition committed to making Open the default for research and education.

SPARC--Author Rights and the Author Addendum
SPARC resources on author rights and the SPARC author addendum, which can be used in copyright transfer agreements with non-open access journal publishers.

Library Resources

Work for Hire

According to U.S. copyright law, a work made for hire (or ‘work for hire’) is work, subject to copyright, that is created by employees as part of the scope of their employment. This is an exception to the common rule that the person who creates the work is the owner of the work. In this situation, the employer is considered the legal author.  

For more information, review the Works Made for Hire circular from the U.S. Copyright Office. For Illinois State University faculty and employees, you may wish to also review the university’s intellectual property policy