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Association of Research Libraries (ARL®)

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Prue Adler
Copyright & Intellectual Property Policies

Authors and Their Rights

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US Copyright law gives the author of an original work, such as a scholarly article, the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, adapt, publicly perform, and publicly display the copyrighted work. Copyright protection is now automatic. The author obtains these exclusive rights at the moment the copyrighted work has been “fixed in a tangible medium,” such as when a written work has been saved on a computer's hard drive or printed.

The author retains these exclusive rights up until the moment the author signs a written agreement to transfer some or all of these exclusive rights. (By contrast, an author may give others non-exclusive permission to use the copyrighted work in a variety of ways, including through verbal agreement.) A transfer of any exclusive right is truly exclusive—once transferred, the author may no longer exercise that right. If the author intends to retain the right to make any further uses of the copyrighted work, or intends to grant others permission to make any use of the copyrighted work, the author must make this clear in a written transfer agreement.

Strategies for Encouraging Authors to Retain Their Rights

  • Hold conversations with faculty members about the importance of retaining their copyright
  • Create Web sites with information on copyright retention
  • Develop institutional versions of copyright publisher addendum
  • Offer consultation services to faculty who have copyright questions

Author Rights Web Sites

Library Statements in Support of Author Rights

Campus Statements in Support of Retention of Author Rights

CIC Endorsements:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Minnesota

University of Wisconsin Faculty Senate, Resolution in Support of Assisting University Faculty in Managing Their Publishing Rights and Agreements, May 7, 2007 [PDF]

Library Services in Support of Author Rights

Author Addenda Examples

In consultation with legal counsel, campus libraries have modified or prepared addenda to publishing agreements for use by their campus community.

For a review and analysis of current author addenda, see Peter B. Hirtle, "Author Addenda: An Examination of Five Alternatives," D-Lib Magazine 12, no. 11 (Nov. 2006).

Other Resources