Copyright is a form of protection provided by U.S. law (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.
It gives copyright holders a set of exclusive rights to control how a work is shared and used. The author of a work has the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and make derivatives from their work.
These rights are subject to exceptions and limitations, such as the fair use provision that allows limited uses of works without permission from the copyright holder, or the classroom teaching exceptions that allow certain uses for teachers without seeking permission. These exceptions are a part of the law and are as important as the protections themselves.
Copyright protects any "minimally creative" work that has been fixed in a tangible medium, from the moment it is created. This can include
Copyright does not protect facts or ideas.
In an academic setting, copyright protection can apply to:
Copyright is automatic! This means that as soon as you write an article, regardless of whether or not you formally register it with the U.S. Copyright Office, you are the copyright holder of the article you have written (along with any co-authors). This means that you have sole control over how it is used and shared. When you sign a publishing agreement with a journal, you are either
Under ATSU's copyright policy, the copyright of academic works produced by faculty members remains solely with the authors. ATSU students' work can be published so long as they provide credit to any others at the university who collaborated on the work.
As the copyright holder, you have full power over how your article is shared. This means that you have more power than you think when deciding the terms of a publication agreement. To learn more, check out the Negotiating With Publishers page.
When two or more authors create a work "with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole", they are considered joint authors under copyright law. This means that, unless there is a formal agreement or contract, the following principles will apply:
It is recommended that co-authors discuss these issues and come to an understanding over how they will publish and distribute their work.
Fair use is a copyright doctrine that has its roots in the U.S. Constitution, which sets limits on the exclusive rights of copyright holders and allows people to use copyrighted work without permission, under certain circumstances. Fair Use is pivotal in the course of academic research, as the actual text of current U.S. copyright law lists criticism, teaching, scholarship, and research as specific circumstances under which fair use applies.
It is typically up to the courts to decide if a particular use of a copyrighted work falls under Fair Use. When evaluating a case, judges take four factors into consideration:
Additionally, a use is far more likely to be considered fair if it is considered a transformative use - meaning that the copyrighted work is being transformed by its new use into something novel and distinct from the original work.
You likely rely on fair use in your academic writing without realizing it. Without fair use, you wouldn't be able to comment on, quote, or criticize someone else's work - a key part of the scientific process!
If you need help identifying the copyright status of a work, understanding if you can legally use someone else's work in research, understanding a publishing agreement, or have any other copyright questions, reach out to your liaison librarian for additional help.