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Scholarly Communication: Copyright for Authors


Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U. S. Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, empowers the United States Congress: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Copyright Essentials


  • You automatically own the copyright (a "bundle" of rights) to your original work at the moment it is "fixed in a tangible medium," such as saved on a hard drive or printed.
  • You can transfer some or all of your rights to a publisher or other entity. 
    • Publishers do not need to own all copyrights to publish your work, only a license or permission.
  • Use an author addendum (see box below) to customize your publisher agreement.
  • Check your rights as an author in advance! Review your publisher's agreement for details, especially regarding the NIH Public Access Policy or other funder requirements.

For NIH, you must retain the right to deposit a copy of the final manuscript upon acceptance in PubMed Central. Other federal agencies also now require deposit in a repository. (Check new regulations for federal agencies here.) Some foundations may require deposit, as well. Check your publisher's agreement for specifics! 

Author Addenda: Retain rights to your articles!

Modify your publisher agreement to retain key rights to your articles.

Video: "Sign Here" (2:58)

What Can I Do With My Work?

Videos: Manage Your Copyrights

Manage Your Copyrights. K. Crews (2010). Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office New York, NY. CC-BY (4:53)

Ellen Finnie Duranceau at MIT produced this excellent 3- part series on scholarly publishing and copyright:

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