Copyright questions related to scholarly publishing usually address one of the following issues:
- How to incorporate a piece of someone else’s work in your own scholarship; or
- What you can do with your own work, once it has been published.
For information about negotiating publication agreements, see our guide on Managing Copyright & Negotiating Publishing Agreements. For other questions, including UC copyright policy and fair use in the classroom, see the University of California’s copyright education website.
What you can do with the work of others
Scholarship often builds on work that has come before. Sometimes this referential relationship requires not just citing prior work, but reproducing some portion of it for purposes like illustration or critique. Such reproduction is often okay, for example when:
- The work being copied is in the public domain because its copyright protection has expired.
- The work being copied is factual and not eligible for copyright protection (but beware, questions of copyright and data can get complicated).
- The way the work is being used qualifies as fair use.
- The copyright owner has granted permission for the work to be used, either for a specific use, or generally through a Creative Commons license or similar tool.
You can read more about each of these possibilities in a blog post from Rachael Samberg, UC Berkeley’s Scholarly Communication Officer, here on this site. Or for even more detail, you can check out the full guide at the Berkeley library site. Both the post and the guide are focused on dissertations, but most of the rules and reasoning apply across all kinds of academic writing.
What you can do with your own work
In most cases, authors start out as the copyright owners of the articles, books, and software they write, and, as such, they have broad control over their work. (In some cases, the employer may be the copyright owner. See this chart for some examples at UC.) When people publish, they usually give away some of their rights. Sometimes they are asked to transfer copyright ownership altogether.
Thanks to the UC open access policies, UC employees retain broad rights when publishing scholarly articles, regardless of publisher policies. In rare cases, publishers may demand a policy waiver, but otherwise, these rights remain available to the author.
Not all works are covered by the UC open access policies. Excluded publications include:
- Articles written by a non-employee, or by an employee before they worked at UC
- Articles for which a publication agreement was signed before the policy covering the author was adopted (e.g. an article published in 2012 for an author covered by the Academic Senate Policy, which was adopted in July 2013)
- Books, software, and other works that aren’t “scholarly articles”
If the work you are wondering about is not covered by a UC open access policy or if you have waived the policy for a covered article, the terms you agreed to with your publisher control what you can do with your work. These rights vary widely from publisher to publisher. If you no longer have your publication agreement, you can search the SHERPA/RoMEO database to see if your publisher is included, or you can contact the publisher directly.