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Copyright & Scholarly Communications: Copyright

This guide includes basic information on all things related to Health Sciences Scholarship, such as publishing assistance, issues and disruptions in Scholarly Communications, help navigating the rights maze, and more.


3 copyright logos.

Copyright is a form of legal protection that provides authors of original creative works with limited control over the reproduction and distribution of their work. It gives copyright holders a set of exclusive rights to

  • reproduce the work, in whole or in part
  • distribute copies of the work
  • publicly perform the work
  • publicly display the work
  • prepare derivative works based on the original, such as translations or adaptations

These rights are subject to exceptions and limitations, such as "fair use," which allow limited uses of works without the permission of the copyright holder.

For more in-depth information on this topic see the UNM Copyright Guide.

Author Addenda: Retain Rights to Your Work!

Modify your publisher agreement to keep key rights to your articles.  These may include posting your article to your personal website, maintaining the rights to data expressed as figures and charts, and the ability to distribute your work for free to students, among others.

What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects "original works of authorship." To be protected by copyright, a work must be original and recorded. It cannot be copied or expressed without being recorded.

What is not protected by copyright?

  • facts or ideas
  • titles, names, short phrases, or slogans
  • procedures, methods, systems or processes
  • works of the United States government
  • works that have passed into the public domain


What does this mean for you as an author?

You do not need to register your work to have copyright over it, once you create a work in tangible form you have the rights to it. You have a right to control:

  • where your work is published
  • who has access
  • whether and how it can be re-used

Quick Tip: Use an author addendum (see box to the left) to customize your publisher agreement and be sure to check your rights as an author in advance! Review your publisher's agreement for details, especially regarding the NIH Public Access Policy or other funder requirements. Effectively managing your rights as a copyright owner can help you to maximize the impact of your research and scholarship.

Note: You must retain the right to deposit a copy of the final manuscript in PubMed Central if you are funded by the AHRQ, ASPR, CDC, FDA, NIH, USDA, and other federal organizations. Check your publisher's agreement for specifics. See our NIH Public Access Policy Guide for more information. 

Material Obtained From

Parts of this Guide were obtained from Copyright Basics by April Hathcock and Andrea Ketchum's Scholarly Communications Guide at University of Pittsburgh HSLS.

Instructor With Questions About Course Reserves?

If you are looking for information on copyright restrictions for course materials please see our Course Reserves Guide

What is a Creative Commons License?

Creative Commons logo

Creative Commons helps you share your knowledge & creativity with the world.

Creative Commons licenses are a standardized way to give others permission to share and use your work -- on conditions of your choice. You retain copyright of your work while allowing others to make limited use.

Choose a License

Learn more:

It is important to understand that while you control how the work can be used with Creative Commons the most basic level of the license does mean that others can use your work, you are just indicating how they can use it. Creative Commons is usually more useful for images as opposed to writing.

Additional Resources

Copyright Basics - U.S. Copyright Office

Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians - U.S. Copyright Office

Owning and Using Scholarship: An IP Handbook for Teachers and Researchers - Kevin L. Smith, J.D., Director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication at Duke University 

Owning and Using Scholarship book cover

Copyright Term and the Public Domain - Cornell University

Public Domain Handbook - University of California at Berkeley Law School