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Copyright Basics

Resources for copyright

Author Rights Overview

Having an manuscript accepted for publication is an exciting moment. Your work will be available to the world! However many publishers' standard publishing contracts (often called a 'Copyright Transfer Agreement') will request you sign away all or most of your rights to the publisher. Unless addressed in the transfer agreement, you may be forbidden by the publisher to do the following:

  • Post the work to your own web site or to a disciplinary online archive
  • Copy the work for distribution to students
  • Use the work as the basis for future articles or other works
  • Give permission for the work to be used in a course at UND
  • Grant permission to faculty and students at other universities to use the material

Fear not! You do not have to sign the first contract presented to you. Before signing a contract think carefully about which rights you wish to retain and what the publisher actually needs to publish your book or article for the first time. Knowing what your rights are and what you may wish to do with your work in the future will help you figure out the best way to protect your rights while publishing your work. Questions you might want to consider are:

Source: Cornell University Libraries. Copyright Management. 2009.

Finding Publishers' Policies on Copyright

​SHERPA/RoMEO is a database of publishers' policies on copyright and self-archiving. If a copyright transfer agreement takes away your author's rights, you can change the agreement or add the SPARC Author Addendum. The publisher may accept your changes, revise them, or deny them.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to use, build upon and share.

The CC website provides a set of copyright licenses and tools that help users create a balance from the traditional copyright law of "all rights reserved."  Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright, but they are based upon it.

Choosing a Creative Commons license for your own original works will allow others share, use, and remix your work. 

The CC website has an explanation of the six licenses and they are listed below.

             Types of Licenses


  Attribution CC BY 
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.


   Attribution-noDerivs CC BY-ND
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.


  Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


  Attribution-Share Alike CC BY-SA
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.  This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.


  Attribution- NonCommercial CC BY-NC
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.


  Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.