Copyright Laws and How They Relate to Your Research Published: June 13, 2019 By: Tanis Coralee Leonhardi Meerkats are known for their vigilance. Follow this meerkat’s advice to protect your work and determine how to best share your research. Figure by Tanis C. Leonhardi. Are you a Ph.D. or Master’s student getting ready to complete your dissertation or thesis? Maybe you are considering how and where to publish your first journal articles? Determining your goals and rights as an author is an important first step before making your work available. Read on for some guidance to help you on your way through the publishing process. Authorship Rights and Considerations when Preparing Your Work for Publication Are you using materials created by other people in your dissertation or manuscript? Perhaps you’re using photos, text excerpts, scientific drawings, or diagrams? Before including and publishing work from a prior source you will need to determine whether you need the publisher’s permission. Copyright laws are a set of statutes that provide authors exclusive rights to their original works for a certain length of time. After copyright protection expires, the work enters the public domain. If you want to build on someone’s work as part of your research you can do so in accordance with Fair Use. Fair Use is founded on four factors to determine if your use of an author’s work is fair and won’t reduce the market for the original work. The intent of Fair Use is to make it possible to build on previous work for scholarly purposes even while the work is protected by copyright. When deciding where to publish your work, you’ll want to consider the responsibilities the publisher has to you, the author, concerning the reproduction of your work. How a publisher manages reproduction of your work and authorship rights varies by publisher, so visit the publisher’s website to read up on their mission and stated duties to authors. Sharing Your Work After you have chosen your publisher, you may need to be cautious about how you share and distribute your work. Typically, journals have restrictions on how you can share the work you choose to publish with them, which can usually be found on an “author guidelines” or similar section of their website. If you can’t find the journals’ policies, you can send them an email inquiring about their sharing policies. A second thing to keep in mind is whether you want to share your work via social media, and how to go about doing that. I recommend making a draft of what you plan to post, then reviewing the criteria for determining if a use is fair before posting the content. If you want to upload the publication to an online repository, such as arXiv or ResearchGate, check their sharing policies to make sure they support that option. While going through these steps may feel like a hassle, it helps prevent potential misuse of your research. It’s easy to get bogged down by the many considerations we make as new authors, so if you feel overwhelmed, that is okay. It’s why the Library’s Office of Scholarly Communications exists! If you want to learn more about the above issues related to publishing and copyright, check out their website for topics like: Scholarship & Publishing Dissertations & Theses Managing Copyrights & Negotiating Agreements Understanding Licenses Evaluating Publishers For personalized help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a meeting. Tanis C. Leonhardi is a Professional Development Liaison in the Graduate Division and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science with a specialization in Geophysics.