Author Services

Protecting Your Copyright

Your Work, Your Copyright:
Copyright protection is provided by Title 17 of the U. S. Code to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, and is available to both published and unpublished works.  As a copyright owner you have the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
  •  In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
  • According to current law, copyright protection for a published work will remain in effect for the life of the author plus seventy years.

Your Publisher and Your Copyright:
Many journals require authors to transfer their copyright to the journal before publication.  As a condition of publication, often authors are required to transfer their rights to their work so that the journal. By transferring rights to the publisher, however, authors may subsequently face barriers to using their own works.  These may include:

  • Paying royalities to use your own work, such as fees for copies for teaching and conferences
  • Republication of your work without your permission
  • Reuse of the work without credit, acknowledgement or payment to you
  • Unable to post your article to your website or your university repository

This is a problem, but not an insurmountable one.  Remember: publication agreements, including copyright transfers, are negotiable.

Want to Learn More About Copyright?

Below are two very helpful websites about copyright.

Publication Agreements: Let's Negotiate

Copyright transfer agreements do not have to be all or nothing. Authors can negotiate with their publishers to retain some rights, for example,  the ability to reproduce or share the work.

Below are some helpful websites that discuss publication agreements.

***Grants can have an impact on your publication agreement. Some grants, particularly federally funded ones, require you to submit a copy of your article to a repository.  For example, recipients of NIH grants are required by law to submit a copy of any of there publications to PubMed Central, an open access repository.  In order to comply with federal law you must ensure that any publication agreement that you sign does not prohibit you from depositing a copy of your work in an open access repository. Alternatively, authors may choose to publish their works fully OA to comply with funder mandates. Vanderbilt Libraries is making this as streamlined as possible by entering into agreements with major publishers to subvent any additional charges resulting from OA publication. For more information on these efforts, please click here.

Making Changes to your Publications Agreement

Below are examples of addenda that can be used to alter your publication agreement and a helpful website about negotiating copyright transfer agreements.

Confused by Legal Jargon?

Publication agreements can be confusing, and authors should be fully aware of the implications of those agreements. Both the Libraries and the Office of General Counsel are available to work with authors to understand the complexities of these agreements.

Researching Author's Rights

Publication agreements vary from publisher to publisher.  Some require authors to transfer copyright, some have modified agreements that only require authors transfer some rights, and others do not require authors to transfer their copyrights at all.

SHERPA RoMEO is an excellent resource for researching a publisher's policies on copyright, self-archiving and compliance with grant funding requirement.