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Selecting Journals for Publication

Author Rights

Remember: under federal law, as an author or creator, copyrights are attached to certain types of intellectual property.  Since 1992, copyrights are granted at the time of the work's creation when "the fruit of mental labor", the ideas, are fixed in some sort of medium and in a tangible form of expression of ideas. Therefore, unless you wish to formally register a copyright, authors/creators do not have to apply for or file a copyright.

Reasons to care about your author rights (From Cornell University Library):

A complete transfer of copyright can have the following negative implications:

  • Transferring distribution rights may prohibit an author from publishing the work in a repository or other source as required by the terms of a funding agreement;
  • Transferring reproduction, distribution, public display, or public performance rights may prohibit an author from sharing their work with their students, colleagues, or professional organization;
  • Transferring reproduction, distribution, public display, or public performance rights may prohibit an author from sharing their work in their institutional repository or website, in some cases triggering receipt of a take-down notice;
  • Transferring the right to make derivative works may prohibit an author from creating follow-up or related works based on their own research;

Bottom line: 

  • Transferring all copyrights means authors no longer own their work or the right to control where or how it appears; and
  • Transferring all copyrights may result in a publisher reusing an author's works without permission or notice.

Columbia Law School: Keep Your Copyrights

Columbia Law School: About contracts

Understanding Publisher Methods (Cornell University Library)

Benefits of copyright registration


"Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.

Publication Goals in Copyright

What does that mean, 'Publication Goals in Copyright'?

Obvious goals are desires such as having your work published, fulfilling components to gain tenure and promotion, and of course, scholarly recognition. 

But publishers have come to realize authors have other requirements and thus offer differing copyright options to meet those needs.

As you search for a publisher, consider the publisher copyright requirements through these choices:
(from Columbia Law School):

  • Non-commercial
    • Free distribution--you really want anyone to have access to your work and you aren't too concerned about payment.  For an author to achieve this open access goal, you pay the publisher.
      • You can license your work through 1 of the differing types of Creative Commons licenses
      • Why think about a license?  From CC: the license allows a creator to "retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work — at least non-commercially".
    • Intermediary Distributors--usual for academics.  You need exposure and help so work through a distributor, a publisher. You may or may not receive payment.  While some publishers always require full transfer of the author's copyright to the publisher, others will negotiate. 
  • Commercial
    • Income from your work is important and thus you wish to be paid for allowing access.  Likely you will need to negotiate with commercial distributors--whose goals (may) differ from yours.