This web guide presents general information about copyright law for educational purposes. The library makes every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but does not offer it as legal counsel or advice. Consult the services of a licensed attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.
Contact Information: If you have questions, please contact Andrea Klyn.
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.
SPARC provides a full set of resources to help you learn more about your rights as an author, and the tools that are available to help you effectively manage your copyrights.
Creative Commons offers free, easy-to-use copyright licenses that provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”