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Copyright and Fair Use

An overview of copyright, focusing on your rights as a copyright owner and use of other people's works in academic contexts

Author Rights

decorative photo of a hand holding a pen.As an author, copyright concerns you in a few ways:

  • You may be concerned about maintaining rights over your work, or letting other people use it in certain ways.  The OSU Open Access Policy is intended to preempt or augment publisher default copyright terms. This is true whether the publisher requires a copyright transfer or not. If your publisher isn’t requiring you to opt-out of the policy by getting a waiver, you are fully within your rights to take advantage of OSU’s policy. As OSU faculty, you retain copyright to the accepted manuscript (post-peer review, pre-typeset) version of your articles and can deposit them to the ScholarsArchive@OSU open access repository and other disciplinary open access repositories, use them for your classes, develop derivative works, and the like.

Details about the University’s Open Access Policy and how it benefits users are listed on the Open Access Policy main page and FAQ. The in-depth Open Access at OSU LibGuide may also be helpful.

In some situations, especially when publishing an article open access in a subscription journal or an open access journal, publishers will ask you whether you wish to apply a Creative Commons license to your work.

  • You may want to integrate others' copyrighted work into your own.  You (and possibly your publisher) can do a fair use analysis to determine if you need to ask for permission.

OSU Faculty Own the Copyright to Their Course Materials

Article XVII, Section 4 of the UAOSU collective bargaining agreement covers faculty ownership of course materials at OSU. In brief, faculty retain copyright to course materials, even those developed under standard Ecampus course development agreements. However, if course material is created with "excess of the typical support generally available to similarly situated faculty members", then OSU owns the material.

Under certain circumstances, the agreement also grants OSU license to use course materials while faculty retain copyright.

OSU Faculty Own the Copyright to Their Research Articles

In 2013, Oregon State University Faculty Senate unanimously passed an Open Access Policy.  One direct result of this policy is that OSU faculty retain copyright to articles published after the policy was passed.  Specifically, OSU faculty can distribute the accepted manuscript version (post peer review, pre publisher formatting) of their articles from their own websites, deposit them in repositories (such as ScholarsArchive@OSU and PubMed Central), use them in their classes, and develop derivative works.

Articles Co-Authored with Federal Employees

According to U.S. Copyright law, a work of the U.S. government is defined as "a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person's official duties" (See 17 USC § 101. Definitions.). Under Section 105 of the Copyright Act, these authors are unable to retain any copyright protections, meaning that these publications reside in the public domain. 

If an OSU faculty member co-authors a research article with a federal government employee, the author(s) should inform publishers of the employment status of the federal government employee co-author and should not sign any document transferring U.S. copyright as a prerequisite to publication. While many publishers have forms that allow submitters to indicate their employment status, some don't and it should be addressed with the publisher prior to signing any agreements. 

Learn More: Creative Commons

Modifying Publisher Agreements

Image Credits

"pen and paper" by Lucas. Used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


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Michael Boock
Contact me for help with questions pertaining to copyright, the OSU Faculty Open Access policy, open access publishing, digital collections of scholarship. I am the library liaison for the College of Forestry and the Honors College.