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Copyright: Copyright for Authors

Copyright Registration & Notice

You own the copyright to your original work as soon as it is set down in a tangible form, even if you do not register your copyright or affix copyright notice.  But there are reasons you might want to do both of these things.

Registration: This means letting the copyright office know of your copyright by filling out an application and providing a copy of your work.  There are fees associated with registration.   Registration includes the legal benefit that the copyright holder can bring a lawsuit in the case of infringement.  You can register your work at the Copyright Office website.

If you do not wish your work to be distributed freely either because it has monetary value or is of personal or emotional significance to you, then you should register your work.

Notice: This means affixing a notice to your work that it is under copyright.  This step communicates to the world that you know you have copyright and that it matters to you.  It also indicates who they should contact with requests or questions.  Copyright notice includes 3 parts

  1. the symbol © or the word "Copyright"
  2. the year of first publication
  3. the name of the copyright owner

Author Rights

As the author or creator of a work, you initially hold the copyright in the item.  At the time of publication, many authors transfer the some or all of their copyrights to the publisher.  Publisher agreements vary from publisher to publisher, and some do allow authors to retain some rights, but many of these agreements transfer the entirety of the copyright away from the author.  

Read your publisher agreement or copyright transfer agreement carefully.  If you have questions about it, contact a librarian.  

If you transfer all copyright to the publisher 

  • Current and future use of your work is entirely controlled by the publisher, including the ability to make derivative works such as translations.
  • You have no more right to copy, share or reuse your work (for example in teaching or in future publication) than a anyone else has under the fair use portions of copyright law. 

Many publishers have changed their agreements to allow authors to post a copy of their work on a personal website or institutional repository.  There are several different versions that publishers may allow authors to post:

  • preprint - the version of the article before peer review
  • postprint - the peer reviewed version of the article, usually without the formatting supplied by the publisher
  • publisher's final version

Read your publisher agreement carefully to understand which version you are allowed to post and where you are allowed to post it.  The SHERPA/RoMEO website collects a wide range of publisher agreements that you can consult if you cannot locate your original agreement.  

Author Addenda

If the publisher agreement that your publisher sent you does not meet your needs, you can negotiate.  One way to do this is to add an addenda to the agreement.  Science Commons has an addendum generator including all of the following types of addenda:

  • Delayed Access: In addition to retaining rights to use the work and to make derivative works, this type of addendum allows the the author to archive the publisher's final version of the article in any noncommercial repository six months after it is available via a subscription to the journal.  The postprint version can be archived immediately.
  • SPARC Author Addendum: Author retains noncommercial reuse rights, rights to make derivative works, and rights to authorize others to make noncommercial use of the article.  The author can archive the article in any noncommercial repository.  The publisher must supply the author with a digital copy of the published version within 14 days of publication.  
  • Immediate Access: Author retains use rights and the right to make derivative works.  Any version of the article can be self archived immediately in any noncommercial repository. 
  • MIT Amendment: Similar to Immediate Access addenda, but also grants the author permission to authorize their institution to use the article for academic or professional activities at the institution.

PSU Intellectual Property Policy

Under copyright law, the copyrights of works made in the course of a person's employment or specifically commissioned are owned by the employer.  However, in the case of scholarly work done by faculty, the copyright is usually retained by the faculty.  The PSU Intellectual Property Policy is in line with this practice, stating: 

"Unless created as a Work Made for Hire, as Sponsor-Supported Intellectual Property, or as assigned in the course and scope of employment, pedagogical, scholarly or artistic works by PSU faculty, staff or students are also included as Creator Owned Intellectual Property (examples books, course materials, compositions, visual arts, dramatic works, and refereed materials).  Creator-Owned Intellectual Property also includes works of students created in the course of their education, such as theses, dissertations, papers and journal articles unless otherwise designated in another PSU Policy."

For information about intellectual asset management, visit the PSU Office of Research and Engagement.