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Copyright: Step 2: If you’re the author, ensure you didn’t transfer your rights to a publisher

This guide provides information (not legal advice) to support NWC community decision-making in the use of copyright protected material in research, learning, and teaching.

Purpose of Guide and Disclaimer

This guide intends to refer NWC community users to accurate information. However, information received from the NWC Library or the NWC Copyright Librarian is neither legal advice/opinion nor legal counsel to the college or any members of the NWC community. Please contact the NWC Office of General Counsel or NWC Staff Judge Advocate's Office for NWC-related legal advice and interpretation of the law, or personal counsel for personal legal advice. The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by NWC of sites or the information, products, or services contained therein, nor does NWC exercise editorial control over the information found at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this guide. U.S. copyright law is subject to change.

Author Rights

The Uses Copyright Protects

According to U.S. Copyright Code, 17 U.S.C. § 106, a copyright owner gets to do, or authorize others to do, the following things with their copyrightable work: 

  • Make copies of the work
  • Distribute copies of the work (by selling, renting, lending, or giving it away)
  • Perform or display the work publicly
  • Make derivative works, like translations, adaptations, and reinterpretations

A copyright owner can break up their bundle of rights and dole out some or all of those rights to other people or entities. This is done by transferring ownership or granting licenses (both exclusive and non-exclusive). Ownership or license rights can be shared by any number of people or entities.

By default, publishing contracts often transfer the entire bundle of rights from the author to the publisher. In cases where this has been done, authors may be forced to request permission to exercise the rights they no longer have. Before signing contracts, authors should be sure they understand which rights they will retain in their own work (e.g., use in teaching and future published works) and which rights they will give away to the publisher.


Adapted from George Mason University CC-BY 4.0 International License