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Scholarly Communication: Copyright & Fair Use

This guide is for UNLV authors. It provides resources on open access, publishing, bibliometrics, and more.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.  Copyright gives authors exclusive rights to their creative works (with some limitations) and applies to "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression."

Why Care About Copyright?

Research activity is a result of hard work, study, and research. The more your article is read and cited….the greater the value. Copyright affects both access to and the impact of your work.

As an author, you will likely encounter copyright agreements and which typically ask that you transfer some or all of your exclusive rights to a publisher. For example, you may transfer rights to:

  • reproduce the work in copies

  • prepare derivative works based upon the work

  • distribute copies of the work to the public

  • display the work publicly

As a researcher, you will likely be building upon the work of others and therefore be citing their prior work.  Be sure and take a look at the Fair Use resources that can help you determine whether your use is fair, or whether you should seek permission to use a copyrighted work in your research.

Manage & Retain Your Article Copyright

When one writes an article for a scholarly journal, s/he is typically asked to sign a publication agreement or a copyright transfer agreement. The purpose of the agreement document is to transfer your ownership of copyright to the publisher.

Copyright is a bundle or package of rights cited above. Scientists and scholars (creators) can “unbundle” these rights and transfer only some of them to publishers.The creator transfers ownership of the copyright, but retains the right to do specific things:   

  • include articles in coursepacks
  • place articles on a personal web site
  • archive in an institutional repository

The creator may retain copyright ownership and grant a non-exclusive license to the publisher, typically for the right of first formal publication.

A copyright addendum helps authors ask for certain rights for their own works. Try either of these when preparing to sign a copyright transfer agreement.

  • SPARC Author Addendum to Publication Agreement: This document includes author retention of rights; publisher commitments; and prior license acknowledgements. Fill out the agreement form; attach it with your post-print, and email to the publisher.
  • Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine: Helps you generate a PDF form you can attach to a journal publisher's copyright agreement requesting to retain specific rights.

Addional Copyright Resources

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