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Authors' Rights: Retaining Your Copyright

Do you own the works that you create?

Yes, at the University of Washington you generally own the copyright for works you create unless you have signed an agreement that states otherwise.

What is covered by copyright?

Any original content you create in a tangible format. This includes both scholarly works and unpublished materials such as presentations, lectures notes, and email messages. Copyright protects the exact expression of an idea not the idea itself. Copyright does not protect facts, lists (e.g., telephone book), and public domain materials.

Do I have to register for copyright?

No, copyright coverage is automatic. However, there are some advantages to registering your copyright.

What rights does the Copyright Law provide?

Copyright gives an owner the following rights (Author's 5 Basic Rights):

  • Right to Reproduce
  • Right to Prepare Derivative Works
  • Right to Distribute
  • Right to Display Publicly (related to artistic works)
  • Right to Perform Publicly (related to musical or dramatic works)

What happens when I sign a Publisher’s Agreement?

Most publishers' agreements ask that you assign the copyright to the publisher. Doing so may limit your ability to use and share your works with others. Problems may arise when you or others want to:

  • Use your work in a course pack
  • Place copies on print or electronic reserves
  • Mount a copy on your web site
  • Distribute a copy to colleagues

What can I do?

  • Negotiate with the publishers to retain explicit ownership of your content (Author's 5 Basic Rights)
  • Transfer, via an author addendum, to the publisher only those rights needed for publication.
  • Specify other rights of particular value to you or your  home institution

Where can I get information?