Copyright Library Guide

Copyright Library Guide

Copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work. Learn more about the basics of copyright, how it impacts your research publications, and find additional resources in this library guide

The MLML/MBARI Research Library is here to help you navigate copyright issues!

Please contact librarian Katie Lage ( for assistance with any of the following:

  • Questions about how copyright affects course reserve readings
  • Help negotiating with the publishers of your articles to retain explicit ownership of your content
  • Assistance finding publishing opportunities that will facilitate the widest dissemination of your work to help you fulfill your personal and professional goals as a scholar

Fair Use refers to the use of copyrighted content without the expressed permission of the copyright holder under specific circumstances. Whether the use of copyrighted content is considered Fair Use is determined on a case by case basis.

Four factors are used to analyze whether Fair Use applies. All four factors should be weighed simultaneously when evaluating a fair use case.

  1. The purpose and character of use, including whether the use is for commercial or noncommercial purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work (e.g. factual works are more likely to fall under fair use than highly artistic or creative works)
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

Two resources to help you evaluate your Fair Use use case:

What are your intellectual property rights as the creator of content? Do you own the copyright to your published articles (Answer: You may or may not depending on the contract you signed with the publisher). What options do authors have for retaining their copyright? We’ll explore the above questions in this section.

Copyright holders retain 5 basic rights

  1. Right to Reproduce
  2. Right to Prepare Derivative Works
  3. Right to Distribute
  4. Right to Display Publicly (related to artistic works)
  5. Right to Perform Publicly (related to musical or dramatic works)

What could you lose if you sign away your rights (e.g., to a publisher)?

You could lose the right to:

  • Use your work in a course
  • Place copies on print or electronic reserve
  • Mount a copy on your web site
  • Deposit a copy in your institutional repository
  • Distribute a copy to colleagues

If you transfer your copyright to a publisher, your rights will be limited by the publisher’s license that you signed and the principle of Fair Use when using your own work in the future. Traditionally, academic publishers have required that authors transfer copyright to them, but this standard is changing. 

More and more campuses are creating Open Access policies that require authors to retain some rights to their work. The assignment of non-exclusive rights to publishers is becoming much more common. Information on Open Access at SJSU.

So, what should I do?

A variety of tools are available to help you navigate and negotiate for keeping some of your rights. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) can walk you through the process of creating an Author Addendum to attach to a journal publisher’s copyright agreement to ensure that you retain certain rights. You can use these forms to negotiate to retain the copyright to your work:Additionally, the Authors Alliance and Creative Commons have developed a tool for authors to terminate their transfer of rights for previously published works: ToT Tool