Blackwell Library

Obtaining Copyright Protection & Sharing Your Work

Copyright Symbol imageCopyright is often equated with limitations, what cannot be done with others' works. Equally important, however, copyright is a tool for protecting your rights to your own works and for defining the rights
you wish to grant others.

Copyright Registration

Although it makes a public record available, registration isn't necessary unless a copyright owner wants to be able to initiate a lawsuit. If works are registered within three months of publication or before an infringement, the copyright owner is eligible for actual damages, statutory damages, and legal fees.

Click on this symbol to register works with the U.S. Copyright Office:

While a copyright notice proves a work is copyrighted, it is insufficient for taking a case to court. Litigation requires copyright registration. Increasing, however, educators are looking for ways to preserve some rights typically signed over to publishers so that they can post work to their own web sites and also share their research and publication with other scholars. Creative Commons provides several helpful services to facilitate greater access to scholarship:

  • easy-to-create licenses to protect and share works posted on web pages, including a Founders' Copyright that helps brings works into the public domain after 14 years

  • lists of host sites to which licensed music, blogs, images, and video can be posted and on which they can be found

  • a Science Commons of developing tools to archive and reuse scholarly works and data on the Internet and publish open access law journals

  • amendments authors can append to publishing agreements to preserve their rights

Other organizations and institutions actively promote authors' rights: Indiana University and SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.  SPARC has an excellent author rights brochure that clearly and briefly explains the benefits of protecting authors from signing away legitimate and valuable educational uses of their work.

SPARC and Science Commons have joined forces to create a simple mechanism to help authors retaining certain rights to their articles. The Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine can assist in generating a PDF form to attach to a journal publisher's copyright agreement.

Publishing in open access journals, starting open access journals, and including fees to publish in them in grant proposals makes scholarly work available to academic communities worldwide at no cost to those communities. This is typically possible because open access titles charge authors to publish articles, but do not charge users to read them. There are more than 2,000 quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals currently available in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). To support this initiative, which puts access to scholarship back in the hands of those creating it, include fees for publishing in an open access journals in grant proposals.

Creating a Copyright Notice

  • Since 1 March 1989, when the U.S. adhered to the Berne Convention, it is no longer necessary to include a copyright notice. A work is protected from the moment that it is created.

  • While not necessary, a copyright notice provides clear information: that a work is protected, when it was published, and who owns the copyright. It also eliminates the defense of "innocent infringement" if a case is brought to court.

Published Works

The all too familiar copyright symbol doesn't have legal force, but even the U.S. Copyright Office sanctions its use. Any of the following are acceptable:

2000 John Doe
Copyright 2000 John Doe
Copr. 2000 John Doe
2000 A.B.C. Records, Inc. (for sound recordings)

Unpublished Works

Unpublished work 2000 John Doe