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Copyright and Fair Use

Use this guide as a starting point for copyright education. Reach out to for more information. Nothing in this guide is legal advice.

Bundle of Rights

US Copyright Law provides a bundle of rights for creators of original works. These rights are:

  1. the right to reproduce the copyrighted work;
  2. the right to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
  3. the right to distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  4. the right to publicly perform the work;
  5. the right to publicly display the work;
  6. for sound recordings, the right to publicly perform the work through an audio transmission.

CTAs and Publisher Reuse Policies

While the initial creation of an author's work lends itself to a broad range of rights, when working with publishers often authors are presented with a tradeoff in return for publishing assistance.  These tradeoffs are generally presented in a legally binding publishing contract called a Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA), and it spells out what rights an author will retain if they agree to the work with a particular publisher.

These tradeoffs can range from giving the publisher all rights to a work - leaving an author to ask permission regarding any re-use of their creation - even making copies for a class, or reusing some of their work in later writings; to more lenient circumstances of allowing the publisher to reproduce the work, but the author retains full copyright and can continue to re-use their work as they so choose.

Versions of a Work

Often a CTA will list specific versions of a work an author is permitted to use - each type under certain circumstances:

  • Submitted Version: (a.k.a. pre-print, pre-reviewed) This is the original manuscript submitted to the publisher. No changes have been made to the document at all.
  • Accepted Version: (a.k.a. post-reviewed; pre-proof) This is the manuscript after it has been peer-reviewed and adjusted, and the publisher accepts this for publication. The publisher has not added anything to the document.
  • Final Published Version: The publisher's official published version that is displayed in the journal, book, etc.

Retaining Your Rights

As an author, you have certain rights to your work that publishers often require you to turn over in exchange for publication in a journal, publishing a monograph, or producing artistic content. Now more than ever it is crucial that you understand your rights as an artist, author, or creator of any sort. The Scholarly Communications and Data Management Unit can provide guidance on negotiating a publication contract, as well as choosing the proper license to assign to your work (

Creative Commons

Creative Commons Licenses (CC licenses) allow creators to take a more hands on approach to their works. These licenses allow creators to state exactly how they will immediately permit their works to be used and under what circumstances, and what uses they demand to be contacted for. Publishers have begun offering these CC licenses to authors as another publishing option, but authors can apply these to their works if self-publishing.

Licenses range from lenient, allowing a work to be shared and re-worked as long as credit is given to the original creator; to strict, allowing a work to be shared only with credit to the creator, in its original state, no derivative works of it, and under non-commercial circumstances only. Anything beyond what the license immediately spells out, requires contacting the creator/copyright holder. For a list of the different licenses see:

Example of a CC license image

Example of a CC license image