Rights & Permissions

Authors’ rights

  • Customarily, academic authors have often assigned their copyright to publishers. Recently, however, many authors have sought more long-term control over the copyright in the works they have created. They may want the flexibility to make their work openly available, either for educational purposes or for general readership. They may want to allow others to reuse their work in certain situations. The best way to keep that control and flexibility is by reading, understanding, and saving a copy of the publishing contract.
  • In addition, UNC’s Faculty Council has passed a resolution stating, “Be it resolved that UNC-CH faculty are the owners of their research and should retain ownership and use open access publication venues whenever possible.”
  • Here are some tools to help accomplish this:
    • What rights would I like to retain when I publish? What does the contract the publisher sent me mean? Although we cannot act as your attorney, staff in the Scholarly Communications Office will be glad to discuss what your contract means and what your options are for retaining rights.
    • Know Your Copyrights, a resource booklet for faculty and teaching assistants,
    • Publishing contract addenda. Some authors handle the process of making changes in their publishing contracts by attaching an addendum. Here are two model addenda to consider:  the SPARC addendum, and the CIC addendum.

Open Access

  • Open Access is scholarly content made available free of charge. The UNC Libraries support open access, open archives, and open repositories as methods to encourage the widest possible access to scholarly content.

Creative commons licensing

  • Creative Commons Licensing (CC-licensing) is a way for creators to give permission for certain kinds of reuses preemptively. For example, if a creator has taken a picture and knows that she will allow educational and nonprofit reproductions of that work, she may attach an Attribution-Noncommercial (CC BY-NC) license to the work.
    • There are several “flavors” of Creative Commons licensing and some requirements as to how to attach the license to the work and how to cite work that is CC-licensed. Check out the Creative Commons website for more information.

How to seek copyright permission

  • The first step in seeking permission to use copyrighted work is to determine, to the extent possible, whether it is still in copyright. (See information on public domain, formalities, and copyright terms.) The second step is to determine the rights holder. Many publishers have information on their web sites explaining how to seek permission. In addition, consider whether fair use, or another copyright exception, applies for your situation.
  • Seeking permission can be a time-consuming process, and it is best to start well ahead of when the license is needed. Many rights holders will want as much information as possible about the intended use.  Remember that a lack of response from the rights holder does not equal consent. Optimally, permission should be obtained in writing.