Open Access is all about openly and freely sharing scholarly content. Understanding the rights you have as an author under copyright law is the first step in participating in Open Access, since these right give you the ability to ensure that your content is openly accessible. You own the copyright to your work from the moment you put your finger tips to a keyboard or pen to paper. This includes articles, manuscripts, poems and even blog posts. Copyright owners have the exclusive right to reproduce their work, distribute their work, and publicly perform or display their work. They also have the exclusive right to create a derivative work, which is a work based on one or more previous works. For example, the Harry Potter films are derivative works of the Harry Potter novels. As a copyright owner, you and then your heirs have these rights for your lifetime plus an additional 70 years.
When you publish, read what you sign! Often the paperwork you sign when publishing includes a transfer of copyright. This means you are giving your publisher all of your rights to that work. If you want to use it again, you have to ask the publisher for permission to do so even though you are the original author. Signing away your copyright to a publisher is a choice and not a requirement. Publishers do not need all of your rights under copyright to publish and distribute your work. Nature is one journal that asks only for a license rather than a full transfer of copyright. You have the right to negotiate your author agreement prior to publication to maintain certain rights.
Want to openly share your work and make it easy for others to use that work? Copyright protection can sometimes limit your ability to easily and openly share work with peers because they are required to seek your permission before using your material. You can use Creative Commons licenses to explicitly state how someone can use your work without having to track you down to ask your permission. You can also search for content licensed with Creative Commons licenses, which number in the millions.
For more information about your Copy Rights and Open Access, see the Intellectual Property Rights Office’s Copyright & Publishing web page.
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