This page will cover basic copyright information for students, and the final two sections will cover more specific information on managing author rights when publishing and copyright information for graduate students. Below is the outline for the content on this page.
Before you dig into the details of this page please watch this short 2 minute video (below) which will give you a basic understanding of five key facts of U.S. Copyright Law.
Copyright is a form of legal protection that allows authors and other creators to control their original, creative work. The work must also be "fixed in a tangible medium of expression" - written on a piece of paper, saved on a computer hard drive, or recorded on an audio or video tape. Copyright occurs automatically at the creation of a new work. In general, copyright holders have the exclusive right to do, and to authorize others to do, the following:
Need more clarification? Watch this short video about the purpose of copyright protection and the exclusive rights of copyright holders:
What's protected by copyright?
Original or creative expressions fixed in a tangible medium, such as:
Copyright protection term lengths
Current (works created on or after 1978)
Works created before 1979 can have various copyright term lengths. The Digital Copyright Slider can be used to help define how long the protection of an item may last.
More information from the U.S. Copyright Office:
Copyright protects works that are:
Copyright does not protect:
However, copyright may protect the way these facts, ideas, and systems are expressed, such as:
Though copyright does not protect names, titles, and phrases, trademark law may protect them.
What to know:
What to know:
The creator usually is the initial copyright holder. If two or more people jointly create a work, they are joint holders of the copyright, with equal rights. When authors publish, sometimes they sign their copyright over to the publishers.
If a work is created as a part of a person's employment, that work is a "work for hire" and the copyright belongs to the employer, unless the employer explicitly grants rights to the employee in a signed agreement.
As a student, you hold the copyright in your academic works. In addition, K-State holds a nonexclusive, royalty free license to mark on, modify, and retain your academic works (meaning that K-State instructors may markup, modify, and keep your academic works and writings as part of the instructional activities.)
If a work is created as a part of a person's employment, that work is a "work for hire" and the copyright belongs to the employer, unless the employer explicitly grants rights to the employee in a signed agreement. If the creator is hired as a contractor, then the creator (rather than the company/employer) may be the copyright holder. Please visit Circular 9: Works Made for Hire from the U.S. Copyright Office for more information on "work for hire."
If you are a student employee, you may or may not hold the copyright to the works you create while under the employment of K-State.
Please see the chart below for more clarification on copyright holders at K-State. For further explanation, please read Section I of K-State's Intellectual Property Policy.
|Why/how did you create the work?||Who holds the copyright?||Exceptions|
As part of the normal course of your employment at K-State
(e.g. a student worker creating a poster for a K-State event)
The copyright may be held by you if:
As a K-State employee using substantial institutional resources when creating the work
(e.g. a Graduate Teaching Assistant uses software licensed to K-State to create teaching materials)
"Substantial use" is defined as receiving staff, salary, or material support beyond that normally provided to the creators at K-State.
K-State owns the copyright to the specific materials but not to the intellectual content of the courseware.
In the course of your employment for scholarly or artistic means
(e.g. a Graduate Research Assistant taking photos for a research project under the direction of a faculty member)
Scholarly and artistic works can include "textbooks, scholarly monographs, trade publications, maps, charts, articles in popular magazines and newspapers, novels, nonfiction works, supporting materials, artistic works, syllabi, lecture notes, and like works" (University Handbook, Appendix R: Intellectual Property Policy and Institutional Procedures, Section I.A.).
The copyright may not be held by you if:
As a student as part of a course at K-State
(e.g. your academic works)
|You||The copyright will always be held by you, but K-State holds a nonexclusive, royalty-free license to mark on, modify, and retain your academic works.|
Step-by-step, follow the guidelines below or use the infographic (left) when reusing content.
Plagiarism is an ethical issue and a violation of university policy.
This policy (specifically Section II-A) outlines definitions of plagiarism and how to avoid it.
Copyright Infringement is a legal concept in which an individual either does not seek permission to use a work or the use does not fall under an exception in U.S. Copyright Law (such as Fair Use).
Public domain works (e.g. most works published before 1923), do not need citations/attribution; under U.S. Copyright Law, these works are free to use however you want. However, not citing is a form of plagiarism even though you may not be committing copyright infringement.
As an author, you are encouraged to take an active role in managing your copyrights. As the original copyright holder you have the right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and perform and display the work publicly. However, many authors traditionally have transferred some or all of these rights to a commercial publisher in order to publish a journal article or book chapter.
The information below will help you to understand author rights and how to retain rights when publishing. You can also use the Author Rights Checklist for Scholarly Authors to easily follow a workflow for retaining your rights when publishing your research.
Before working with a publisher or journal you should consider:
It’s important to research a publisher's copyright policies. You can search the SHERPA/RoMEO database to find information about specific journals and publishers; the database will let you know a publisher's policies on what version of an article you can archive and where you can archive the article (such as on an institutional repository, like K-REx, or on your personal website or academic social media profile).
It's also important to think about any rights you may want to secure in the future and to fully read and understand your contract before signing. Publisher copyright policies usually do not cover every aspect of a contract, and if you are publishing in a special issue of a journal, for example, there may be more specific stipulations in the contract that either restrict or expand your author rights. Know what rights it allows you to retain.
There are 3 basic options when dealing with publishers:
Transfer copyright but negotiate some or all of the rights with the publisher.
3. Retain your copyright and grant specific rights to the publisher
The Science Commons Publication Agreement allows you to specify what rights you are willing to grant to the publisher.
Made a mistake and signed your rights away already? It may not be too late. You could renegotiate or maybe terminate with this tool from Creative Commons and Authors Alliance: https://creativecommons.org/2017/10/11/termination-of-transfer-tool/
The use of a Creative Commons license allows you can grant permission up front allowing others to use your work in ways that you specify.
That depends. Original works that are fixed in a tangible form are automatically copyrighted. The work does not have to be registered or published with the copyright symbol to be protected. However, you cannot sue someone for copyright infringement or claim statutory damages if your work is not registered. In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of a particular copyright.
You may register a work at any time while it is still in copyright. Registering is not difficult and can be done online. Visit the United States Copyright Office website for instructions and forms.
As a graduate student, you will likely be expected to write an Electronic Thesis/Dissertation/Report (ETDR). While you may not hold copyright to all the images and figures you cite in your ETDR, you hold the copyright to your ETDR.
Take a few moments to read "Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities" from Columbia University, which will give you a better understanding of the common scenarios involving copyright encountered by graduate students when conducting research.
Your ETDR is an original work and is protected by copyright laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code). These laws give the copyright owner (in this case, you) exclusive rights to (or authorize others to) reproduce, distribute, produce derivative works, display, or perform the work. Copyright protection is automatic from the moment of creation, so copyright notice (e.g. © John Smith) is not legally required to receive protection.
The copyright page of your ETDR is not required unless you plan to register for copyright, either through the U.S. Copyright Office or as part of the submission process to UMI/ProQuest (doctoral students only). It is, however, highly recommended, because it communicates the copyright status of the work and gives others information about who to contact for permissions. You can include the copyright page even if you do not register for copyright.
If you include a copyright page in your ETDR, the following information should appear on the page:
© Firstname Lastname YYYY.
© Will E. Wildcat 2017.
See the ETDR template for more information on your copyright page.
Registration is also not required for copyright protection; however, registration affords you two advantages: you can file a copyright infringement lawsuit and you can recover statutory damages and attorney fees in an infringement action. You must register before the infringement occurs to have these benefits.
You may want to discuss copyright registration with your major professor before deciding whether to register.
You have two options for registering copyright. One is to register directly with the U.S. Copyright Office. Cost is $35, and you can register online. Details for registering are available on the U.S Electronic Copyright Office site.
The other option (for dissertations only) is to request registration through UMI/ProQuest. You can do this as part of the online submission process required for all K-State dissertations. During the submission process, you will be asked if you want to register for copyright. If you respond "Yes," UMI will register on your behalf. Cost is $55, which will be added to your graduation fees. You do not need to provide a paper copy.
When you reuse others' works, even if they are in the public domain (i.e. their copyright terms have expired or they never had copyright protection), you may not be infringing anyone's copyright, but you could be plagiarizing if you do not properly cite the work. Please see the Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement section of this page for more information. While proper citation is important, you must also comply with U.S. Copyright Law when reusing content in your ETDR. Please refer to Reusing Content or read the Framework for Analyzing any U.S. Copyright Problem, which breaks down how to legally use content in four sequential steps, before reading about the types of content (below) that are commonly used in ETDRs.
Here are the common types of content you might be using in your ETDR:
If you cannot find works (e.g. images, graphs, scholarly articles) that are not in the public domain or that do not have a Creative Commons License, then you may need to rely on fair use. You can learn more about fair use by taking the MIT Fair Use Quiz. If you do need to rely on fair use for the use of copyrighted materials in your ETDR, remember the four factors of fair use, and in particular, remember that if you need to use it, you should verify that all of the following are true:
Fair Use Evaluator
Use the fair use evaluator tool in order to better understand the four factors of fair use and make your own evaluation of your use of a copyrighted work. The tool generates a PDF of the evaluation, which can act as evidence of your good fair effort. In a court of law, a good faith effort can substantially reduce or eliminate statutory damages and lawyer fees.
If you feel you cannot rely on fair use, you may need to either request permission or seek an alternative resource.
As you prepare your permission request letter, be sure to include these elements:
You should be as specific as possible in your permission request(s). The above templates act only as guides.
If you write an ETDR, you will be expected to submit it to the K-State Research Exchange (K-REx) when completed. Doctoral students will also be expected to deposit their dissertations in ProQuest. When you submit your ETDR, you are giving K-REx and ProQuest (if applicable) the right to host and distribute your ETDRs.
As a graduate or doctoral student, you may decide to use a chapter or section from your ETDR and publish it as a scholarly article in an online academic journal before you upload your final ETDR to K-REx. When you submit an article for publication in an academic journal, the publisher may ask you to sign over copyright during the submission process as soon as the article is accepted for publication. In this circumstance, you would no longer hold copyright of the content in that article, which means that a portion of your ETDR's copyright is now held by the publisher. You no longer have the right to reproduce and distribute copies of the article or ETDR chapter without permission from the copyright holder (the publisher), which includes depositing your ETDR into K-REx. The majority of publishers, however, are usually flexible and will allow you to deposit your ETDR into an institutional repository, such as K-REx. If you have published a section of your ETDR with an academic journal and are no longer the copyright holder, you will need to request permission from the publisher before you submit your ETDR to K-REx.
Alternatively, if you have not yet submitted a chapter or section of your ETDR as an article to an academic journal but want to do so, you may want to retain some of your rights. In order to do this, you can attach a contract addendum before you sign your contract or choose an open access journal. Keep in mind that many publishers now use "click-through" agreements that ask you to sign over copyright during the submission process. If you wish to retain your rights:
If the publisher requests that you not host your ETDR on K-REx due to copyright restrictions, you can request an embargo period. You are expected to discuss embargoes with your academic advisor for approval before submitting to K-REx.
If you have already submitted your ETDR to K-REx, and you decide to publish an article using content or sections from your ETDR, you will need to notify the publisher or journal that the content of the article is already hosted online on K-REx. The majority of publishers will not have a problem with this, but you do need to notify them of this, especially if they ask you to sign over copyright, because the publisher now has the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the article and its content.