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How does copyright concern me as a researcher or scholar?

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

Copyright owners have a number of exclusive rights, including:

  • the right to publish their work
  • the right to reproduce their work (for example, by copying or scanning)
  • the right to communicate their work to the public (for example, by making it available online, or emailing it).

If you have included content where the copyright is owned by someone other than yourself (e.g. diagram, text, photograph) you do not necessarily have the right to re-use that material without first seeking permission.

Useful links:

  • You as the author?
  • Joint authors? Copyright ownership will be shared between all authors.
  • The publisher?
  • UniSA?
  • A third party (e.g. a diagram used with permission)?

Institutional repositories are one of the strategies currently being adopted by scholarly communities around the globe to ensure maximum access to research literature.

Some publishers allow works to be stored in open access institutional repositories such as UniSA's Research Outputs Repository. Other publishers permit such practice, albeit with restrictions, such as:

  • limited to the use of the publisher's PDF version
  • limited to the author's own fully corrected version
  • removal of the pre-print upon publication
  • links to the publisher's web site to be included

You should always seek to retain the right to include your published work in UniSA's research repository.

Consider publishing in an open access journal which is fully peer-reviewed and where you retain all rights for future use. Additional information about open access publishing can be found at the Open Access guide.

A publisher requires only your permission to publish your paper, not the wholesale transfer of your rights as author.

Therefore, before you sign, scrutinise your agreement and consider:

  • the rights you want to retain
  • the ways you want to use and develop your own work without restriction
  • how to increase access to your work for educational and research purposes
  • your right to be properly attributed when your work is used
  • your right to deposit your work in an online archive or repository
  • your publisher's right for a non-exclusive licence to publish and distribute your work for a financial return
  • your publisher's right to be properly attributed and cited
  • your publisher's right to migrate your work to future formats and include it in collections.

When you submit your work to a publisher, you will be asked to sign a publication agreement. Copyright transfer agreements vary from publisher to publisher. Read this agreement carefully.

If the agreement asks you to transfer your copyright to the publisher, you should make sure you understand what this means. If the transfer agreement is not qualified in any way, it will mean that only the publisher will be able to reproduce, publish, communicate, perform or adapt your work - thus preventing you from re-using or distributing your work without publisher permission.

Assigning copyright to a journal publisher on an unconditional basis means:

  • you may not be allowed to post a copy on your own webpage or deposit a copy in your institution's repository.
  • you may have to ask permission, and perhaps even pay a royalty, to distribute copies to your classes or include your own work in a course pack
  • only subscribers to the journal (individually, institutionally or via a fulltext database license) will be able to read your work, seriously restricting research impact and progress.

Copyright Flow Chart for Authors

Reproduced with permission from Bill Hubbard (SHERPA) and London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK, 2007.

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