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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Author's Rights and Copyright

Who is an Author?

For the purposes of copyright law, an author is anyone who creates original expression in a fixed medium, like a book, journal article, computer software, a photograph, artwork or many other creative works. The creator of the expression is the Author and holds the copyright from the moment of creation. 

As the Author of a work you are the copyright holder unless and until you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement.

An Author's Bundle of Exclusive Rights

Copyright is a bundle of exclusive rights of the creator or copyright holder: 

To Reproduce

The Reproduction right is the right to make copies of a protected work (e.g. as photocopies or online)
To Distribute The Distribution right is the right to sell or distribute copies of the work to the public
Prepare Derivative Works or Adaptations The right to create adaptations (called derivative works, e.g. translations), the right to prepare new works based on the protected work
Display or Perform the Work Publicly The rights to perform a protected work (such as a stage play) or to display a work in public
Authorize Others to Exercise Any of These Rights This bundle of rights allows a copyright owner to be flexible when deciding how to realize commercial gain from the underlying work; the owner may sell or license any of the rights.

TAKE NOTE: Authors are typically asked to sign legally binding contracts such as a publication agreement or a copyright transfer agreement (both legally binding contracts) usually transferring ownership of copyright to the publisher who then determines how you may use your own work.

(By transferring your rights to a publisher, you will lose some or all of the above rights.)

Scholars who sign away all rights may utilize their work under the "fair use" provisions in copyright law, just like any other user.[1,2]

Copyright Management

A Balanced Approach [3]



Retain the rights you want

Use and develop your own work without restriction

Increase access for education and research

Receive proper attribution when your work is used

If you choose, deposit your work in an open online archive where it will be permanently and openly accessible

Obtain a non-exclusive right to publish and distribute a work and receive a financial return

Receive proper attribution and citation as journal of first publication

Migrate the work to future formats and include it in collections


Authorship & U. S. Copyright Law

This site includes answers to questions like:
  • What does the U.S. Constitution say about the relationship between authors and copyrights?
  • Under what circumstances will a work be considered a work made for hire?
  • So what do authors give up when they give up their copyrights?
This FAQ provides answers to these topics and questions, and more:
  • Copyright in General
  • What Does Copyright Protect?
  • Who Can Register?
  • Registering a Work
  • How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?



Guide to Publishers' Contracts and Copyright Agreements

SHERPA RoMEO provides information about the copyright policies, open access, and self-archiving policies of publishers. This is an excellent source of information about specific publisher's copyright policies, and can be useful if an author needs to know, before or after signing a copyright agreement, what rights he or she will/has retained.

SHERPA RoMEO provides a list of publishers that allow the deposit of a published version/PDF in institutional repositories. 

Creative Commons

Creative Commons “helps you share your knowledge and creativity with the world” by providing licenses for you to use when you publish a work to the web. “Copyright was created long before the emergence of the Internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source, and post to the Web.” Creative Commons licenses help authors determine how they want to share their work.

A "license" is another way of saying "contract." By using a creative commons license, an author is permitting others to use his/her work for specific purposes (for instance, an author can use a creative commons license to allow others to use his/her work with attribution but for non-commercial purposes only).

Note that by using a creative commons license, you are specifically allowing others to use your work.

Creative Commons Licenses: Wanna Work Together?

This short video explains how Creative Commons Licenses work

Attribution & Disclaimer

This LibGuide was borrowed with permission from Stephanie Brenenson, Graduate Studies / Scholarly Communication Librarian, at Florida International University. Content was adapted from Author's Rights and Copyrights: A Briefing Paper at

Please note that this guide is not meant to be a substitute for legal advice.


[1, 2] Adapted from:


Creative Commons License

Except where otherwise indicated, original content in this guide is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 license. You are free to share, adopt, or adapt the materials. We encourage broad adoption of these materials for teaching and other professional development purposes, and invite you to customize them for your own needs.