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Copyright & Fair Use

Copyright Owner's Rights

Copyright law grants exclusive rights to the copyright owner:

  1. The right to reproduce the work;
  2. The right to prepare derivative works based on the work;
  3. The right to distribute copies of the work to the public;
  4. The right to publicly perform the work; and
  5. The right to publicly display the work.

The copyright owner also has the ability to give these rights to someone else or share them.  Authors should be aware of their rights as copyright owners, and they should be aware of rights they may give away when signing publisher agreements.

Author's Rights

  • The author is the copyright holder. As the author of a work you are the copyright holder unless and until you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement.
  • Assigning your rights matters. Normally, the copyright holder possesses the exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and modification of the original work. An author who has transferred copyright without retaining these rights must ask permission unless the use is one of the statutory exemptions in copyright law.
  • The copyright holder controls the work. Decisions concerning use of the work, such as distribution, access, pricing, updates, and any use restrictions belong to the copyright holder. Authors who have transferred their copyright without retaining any rights may not be able to place the work on course Web sites, copy it for students or colleagues, deposit the work in a public online archive, or reuse portions in a subsequent work. That’s why it is important to retain the rights you need.
  • Transferring copyright doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The law allows you to transfer copyright while holding back rights for yourself and others. This is the compromise that the SPARC Author Addendum helps you to achieve. 

SPARC Author Addendum

The SPARC Author Addendum is a legal document that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles. The Author Addendum is a free resource developed by SPARC in partnership with Creative Commons and Science Commons.

How to use the SPARC Addendum:

  1. Complete the addendum.
  2. Print a copy of the addendum and attach it to your publishing agreement.
  3. Note in a cover letter to your publisher that you have included an addendum to the agreement.
  4. Mail the addendum with your publishing agreement and a cover letter to your publisher.

Publication Agreements

  • Read the publication agreement with great care. Publishers’ agreements (often titled “Copyright Transfer Agreement”) have traditionally been used to transfer copyright or key use rights from author to publisher. They are written by publishers and may capture more of your rights than are necessary to publish the work. Ensuring the agreement is balanced and has a clear statement of your rights is up to you.
  • Publishing agreements are negotiable. Publishers require only your permission to publish an article, not a wholesale transfer of copyright. Hold onto rights to make use of the work in ways that serve your needs and that promote education and research activities.
  • Value the copyright in your intellectual property. A journal article is often the culmination of years of study, research, and hard work. The more the article is read and cited, the greater its value. But if you give away control in the copyright agreement, you may limit its use. Before transferring ownership of your intellectual output, understand the consequences and options.

Jefferson Digital Commons (JDC)

Protect your right to post your work in the Jefferson Digital Commons (JDC).

The Jefferson Digital Commons (JDC) is the free digital archive for articles published by Jefferson authors, Jefferson-sponsored journals, and historical materials from the University Archives and Special Collections. Since 2006, the JDC has had over one million full-text downloads. The goal of the Commons is to enhance the visibility of Jefferson scholarship and to promote Jefferson authors. Articles deposited in the Commons are indexed by Google, Google Scholar, Yahoo, Scirus and other major search engines, thereby extending the influence of your work and encouraging additional citations. Join the growing number of Jefferson authors who have their work freely available online.

Questions about the JDC? Contact or 215-503-3123.


Portions of this page were adapted from under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

The information presented in this guide is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.  Matters of law are subject to interpretation, and University Counsel is the source of authoritative information for Thomas Jefferson University. If you have specific legal questions pertaining to Thomas Jefferson University, please contact the Office of University Counsel.