Author’s Rights

Managing your rights as an author

What is copyright?

Copyright is a bundle of exclusive rights conferred automatically upon the author of a work at the instant of its creation by federal statute (the 1976 Copyright Act, found in Title 17 of the United States Code). Creation occurs legally when a work is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression” for a period of more than transitory duration.

What are the copyright holder’s rights?

See Overview of Copyright.

Do I need to register my work to have copyright?

No, an original work is automatically copyrighted when it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, for instance, as a word processing document, a web page, a digital photograph, or a recorded podcast. There are some reasons you might want to register your work, however. Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim and, for works of U.S. origin, it is required before an infringement suit may be filed in court. If you plan to distribute your work to the public in any way and want to protect it from unauthorized uses, registration is a good idea. Information about registering your work is available from the United States Copyright Office.

If I’ve given the copyright of my material to the publisher, what are my rights to use it?

Unless you have reserved the right to use the work in your contract with the publisher, or have received permission from the publisher, you may use only that amount that falls within Fair Use. This is why it is critical to retain as many rights to your creative output as possible when you negotiate with a publisher. You can modify any contract to ensure your right to use your work as you see fit.

How can I negotiate a better deal with my publisher and retain important rights?

Tufts has a model amendment to publishers’ agreements that you can use. It allows you to reserve the non-exclusive right to use your intellectual property for your own academic and professional activities, to make it available in digital form on your website, in the Tufts Digital Library, in TUSK and in TRUNK allows you to grant these rights to your current or future employing academic institution.

Is my publisher likely to allow me to retain some rights?

Traditionally, academic publishers required authors to transfer copyright to them, but non-exclusive assignment of rights is becoming much more common. The publisher receives some rights and the author retains some. To see what some publishers require and what they are willing to let an author retain, take a look at the publishers list at SHERPA RoMEO. It is important to read the publisher’s proposed agreement and to negotiate to retain rights to your own work, so that you can use it in your academic and professional pursuits.

Does Tufts claim ownership of faculty-copyrighted material?

The Tufts University Policy on Rights and Responsibilities with Respect to Intellectual Property states that “the tradition of academic institutions is to give faculty members the right to retain ownership of their copyrightable products…” However, creators will be expected to grant non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual licenses to the University for copyrightable material that is developed for University courses or curricula, so that the University’s continued use of such material for educational purposes would not be jeopardized. The University will assert ownership rights to copyrightable intellectual property developed under any of the following circumstances:

  • Development was funded as part of an externally sponsored research program under an agreement that allocates rights to the University.
  • A faculty member was assigned, directed, or specifically funded by the University to develop the material, and the University has negotiated an understanding or formal contract with the creator.
  • Material was developed by administrators or other non-faculty employees in the course of employment duties and constitutes work for hire under U.S. law.
  • The material was developed with extraordinary or substantially more use of University resources than would normally be provided for the creator’s employment duties. This might occur as disproportionate use of staff time, networks, equipment, or direct funding.