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Copyright and Fair Use: The Basics: Controlling Your Copyright

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Controlling Your Copyright

In general, the author or creator of a work initially owns its copyright.

There are exceptions to this rule. If a work is created by an employee in the course of his or her employment, the employer usually owns the copyright. Similarly, "work for hire" done by contractors is usually owned by the commissioning person or organization.

Copyright holders may voluntarily release some or all of their rights.

For example, some academic, scholarly or not-for-profit organizations make content freely available under a range of Creative Commons licenses. Open access journals, in particular, often use Creative Commons licenses.

Copyright holders often sell or transfer some or all of their rights to a distributor or a publisher. 

It is common for publishers to ask you to transfer to your copyrights to them as a condition of publication.

Read the publisher's copyright agreement carefully. You may wish to modify it before signing it so that you retain some rights.

For example, you may want to retain the right to incorporate some or all of your article in your thesis or dissertation--without seeking the permission of (or paying royalties to) the publisher.