There are different rules surrounding copyright law for texts and images. Make sure that you have all the necessary rights and permissions in place before you publish.
Licensing of your material
Any material you create and share with others can be licensed. The license is a message to the reader, or the user of the material, about how they can use or reuse the content.
All material that you produce as a researcher, such as articles, book chapters, books, blog texts, working papers, conference papers or teaching material, can be licensed at the time of publication. The license should be visible on the title page or first page of the material you publish.
Copyright refers to the intellectual property of a work that has been made public by you or your organisation. Copyright law is different in each country, and there is no international law that can be applied overall. However, certain principles apply globally. The right to be recognised as the creator is intrinsic. This means that you, as the author and/or publisher of the material, own the right to decide how it will be used. Different terms apply depending on how copyright is managed by the publisher, and there is sometimes a charge applied for someone who wants to reproduce or share copyrighted material.
Copyright is divided into two parts:
- The ‘intellectual rights’ that are non-transferrable, meaning that you, as the creator of a work, always have to be recognised.
- The economic rights that can, however, be transferred to a publisher or licensed for reuse.
For academic purposes, it is common practice to allow works to be cited to a certain limit (usually about 250 words or 1–2 images or tables, as long as the original source is clearly stated). This can be referred to as “fair use”, “fair dealing”, or “citation rights” depending on which national law applies to the published material.
Open Access Licensing
If you want to publish Open Access, you will still own the rights to your work. You control how it can be used and the credit you are given by choosing one of the Creative Commons licenses. These open licenses are administered independently of any publisher and are internationally recognised. The licenses are applied as a legal code of practice, and can be seen as an addition to the intrinsic copyright applied in each country. Using an open license allows others to continue to build upon your work. There are currently six types of Creative Commons license available, each with slightly different permissions and requirements. All the licenses require that others using your work in any way must give you credit in the way you request, but not in a way that suggests that you endorse them in their use. There must always be a reference and a link to the original if the work is mentioned or reused.
The author of a journal article may, as part of a standard contract with the publisher, have limited rights to share their own work or may have signed away their economic rights entirely. Many publishers still allow articles to be made freely available provided that certain conditions are met. If you want to know what applies to the journal where you have published your articles, please visit the journal’s publisher’s policy in SHERPA/RoMEO. Authors are recommended to check that the publisher’s policy aligns with the policy of their institution and funder before signing any contracts.
Books and book chapters
When publishing a book, or a chapter in a book, the terms of licensing and copyright will typically be included in a contract which you would have to agree with a publisher and which will specify the usage rights, the format(s) and length of time applied to the work.
Book contracts vary from publisher to publisher, and can in some cases be complicated. If you are required to sign a contract with a publisher in order to publish your work you need to ensure that the contract covers your rights and that it takes into account the obligation you have to your employer and/or the funder of your research.
If you want to publish a thesis or dissertation it is recommended that you contact your institution or department to make sure that you follow their policy for such publications.
For more information on what to consider before publishing an Open Access book see the Open Access Books Toolkit.
Images and copyright
Artistic works, photographs, illustrations and diagrams have copyright protection specifying the use by someone without the author’s explicit permission. This protection is governed by the law of copyright for literary and artistic works in the country where your work is published. It is important that you consult the rightsholder if you would like to reproduce work from other sources in your book or article, unless the original work is openly licensed for reuse.
Should you not get permission to use a picture in its electronic format, you can omit it and replace it with an explanatory text: “Because of copyright protection, this picture is missing in its electronic (or print) format.”