The U.S. Copyright office defines copyright as "a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression. In copyright law, there are a lot of different types of works, including paintings, photographs, illustrations, musical compositions, sound recordings, computer programs, books, poems, blog posts, movies, architectural works, plays, and so much more!"
While the library cannot make legal decisions or offer legal advice to you, we are happy to help determine if a work is copyrighted, how you can ask for permission, and provide information to help you make a decision or get in touch with a legal expert.
Publishers may only allow sharing of certain versions of a manuscript: the preprint (before peer review), the post-print (the peer reviewed, accepted, unformatted manuscript), or the publisher's version (the final, formatted manuscript). Plan ahead and look up the publisher on SHERPA Romeo to learn which versions of your work can be shared online or archived in a repository.
Authors are usually given a contract from the publisher that describes how the author's copyright might be transferred to the publisher, retained by the author, or somewhere in-between. There are some resources that can help modify your publisher agreement to retain key rights to your work.
Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization that has created free legal tools to help give authors control of how they would like their work to be shared and used. There are six CC licenses to choose from, each of which provides attribution to the author, as well as an explanation of the extent of use permitted. Open access publishing generally uses this form of licensing to manage copyright.
Fair use is an integral part of copyright law, as it allows for the reuse of copyrighted works without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. Successful examples of fair use include instances where the use is transformative in nature, such as parody, critique, commentary, or for teaching and education. Fair use could also be using a quote in an article to support an idea in a paper or using an image for a class presentation.
To learn more about fair use, and to help determine if your use qualifies, see the following: