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 2005, 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 you retain rights when you publish:
    • 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.

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.