Author's Rights

Who is the copyright owner?

Generally, the author or authors of a work own the copyright. If an employee creates a work within the scope of her employment then the employer generally owns the copyright. This is considered a work made for hire.

The Ohio State University's Intellectual Property Policy establishes further rules on the ownership, distribution, and commercialization of intellectual property created by university faculty, staff and students. Under the policy, faculty members retain copyright in their instructional works, scholarly works, and artistic works, as they are defined in the policy. Students retain copyright in copyrighted materials they author as students (outside of materials authored as student-employees). The requirement to provide a copy of a paper or project created as an assignment for class does not mean that the student has surrendered their copyright.

Under U.S. Copyright Law, a joint work is created when a work is prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole. Authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright in the work they have created.

Many disciplines have best practices regarding who may be listed as an author of a work for collaborators of a scientific or scholarly manuscript or creative work. The Ohio State University Authorship Guidelines may be used in defining rights, responsibilities, roles, and order of authorship.

What rights do I have as a copyright owner?

Section 106 of the Copyright Act gives the owners of copyright the exclusive right to do and authorize others to: 

  • Reproduce the work
  • Prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • Distribute copies of the work
  • Publicly perform the work
  • Publicly display the work
  • For sound recordings, publicly perform the work by means of a digital audio transmission

I am a graduate student. What rights do I have in my thesis/dissertation?

As a student at The Ohio State University, you own the copyright in your thesis or dissertation, meaning you may decide how your work may be copied, adapted, distributed, performed, or displayed. You may elect to retain all of these rights (all rights reserved) or transfer some or all of your rights to another.

Electronic submission of your thesis or dissertation into the OhioLINK ETD Center is a graduation requirement. Submission does not result in a transfer of copyright. You will, however, have the option of selecting a Creative Commons license for your work.

Publishers may consider your electronic submission to be a prior publication; disclose and discuss this with your publisher. You may also contact the Graduate School for more information on requesting an embargo or delay on the electronic dissemination of your work.

If you are including another’s copyright protected content in your thesis or dissertation, consider what permissions you will need under copyright law. This may involve thinking through a statutory exception, such as fair use, or seeking permission directly from the copyright owner. If you are looking to incorporate your own previously published research in your thesis or dissertation, review the terms of your publication agreement to make sure you have not transferred the rights needed to reuse the material in your new work.

How do I get my work copyrighted?

A copyrighted work must be an original work of authorship that is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. 
Copyright is automatic, at the moment of fixation, for works produced on or after Jan. 1, 1978. Copyright registration and a copyright notice (such as © 2005 The Ohio State University) is no longer required. However, a copyright notice does tell the world that you do not want your work to be used without permission. Copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is required before filing suit in federal court for copyright infringement.

How do I register my copyright?

The rights holder can register a copyright at any time while the copyright is in force. To do so, you need to fill out forms at the U.S. Copyright Office's website and pay a fee. Fees currently start at $35 for a basic claim of original authorship. It is also possible to preregister a copyright for certain types of work. Read more about registering your copyright from the Authors Alliance two-part blog series “Why Register Your Copyright” and “How To Register Your Copyright”.

What can I do with my own copyrighted works?

As a copyright owner you have the ability to decide who may use your work and under what conditions. You have the right to transfer your copyright ownership to another in whole or in part, or you may retain your ownership and simply grant another person permission to use your work. If you are granting another permission to use your work, you are granting a license and that license may be exclusive or non-exclusive. Depending on the extent of rights you would like to retain, there are a number of models an author may choose.

How do I grant permission to others?

If a party wishes to use your work and your work does not fall within the public domain and their own use does not fall under fair use or another exception, they must seek your permission.  Attaching copyright notices, terms of use, or permission statements to your work can make it easier for individuals wanting to seek your permission to find you or know in advance what they may do with your work. A grant of permission (license) may be exclusive or non-exclusive. To grant an exclusive license, or to transfer your ownership of the copyright to another, you must have a signed, written agreement. 

DISCLAIMER: The information on these web pages and that received from Copyright Services at The Ohio State University Libraries and the Health Sciences Copyright Coordinator is not legal advice, nor is either office legal counsel to the university or any members of the university community.