Copyright for researchers
When carrying out research and publishing your work, it is important to consider copyright and the agreements that you make with publishers.
Copyright is part of a bundle of intellectual property rights. Copyright owners have the exclusive rights to decide how is a work is used, distributed and whether adaptations can be made to it. The creator of a work usually owns the copyright however copyright can be bought, sold, or leased.
Who owns the copyright of my work?
Whether you are a postgraduate student writing your thesis or an academic publishing a scholarly article, it is important to consider who owns the copyright of your work. Copyright applies automatically to all original, fixed works. Usually the creator of the work owns the copyright to it. York St John University’s Intellectual Property Policy states that the copyright for the scholarly works created by academic staff and taught-course or research students during their studies will be owned by the academic or student unless the University specifies otherwise in advance.
Copyright can be bought, sold or leased. If you intend on publishing your work, when you sign an agreement with a publisher you may be assigning away your copyright, so make sure to read all agreements carefully.
I want to publish my research; do I need to think about copyright?
Yes, if you plan to publish your work then copyright is an important area for you to consider. A publisher will usually require you to sign a contract or publishing agreement, and you should consider the terms and conditions carefully. Publishers usually request that copyright is assigned to them for at least a period of time, granting them an exclusive licence to publish the work. In the case of journal articles, this is incompatible with the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) requirements for open access publishing. York St John recommends that you retain the copyright to your academic publications where possible. This would allow you to use your own materials for teaching and research purposes, and to deposit your publications in an open access repository.
If you require advice regarding publishing contracts, please contact the Research Office or our Copyright & Licences Officer (details above).
What is RaY?
RaY, Research at York St John, is the University's institutional repository service which stores, showcases and shares the University’s research output. York St John University staff and research students are required to deposit all research outputs (including different formats of work) into RaY.
For more information about RaY, please see our Institutional Repository page.
Do I need to consider copyright when submitting to RaY?
Yes, when submitting your work to RaY it is important to consider copyright.
You’ll need to consider who owns the copyright of the work you wish to submit. Generally, if you create a scholarly work, you will own the copyright to it. However, when you sign a publishing agreement, you may sign away some or all of these rights. You will need to read the terms of your publishing agreement carefully. If you are not happy with it, then contact your publisher; you do not need to sign the first agreement you are sent. Ideally, you will consider copyright in advance of choosing where to publish your work. Many publishers will support your right to make your work available online and publishers will often allow authors to archive the author accepted manuscript. However, individual policies will vary, and it is important that you check which version of your work you can deposit into RaY.
You’ll also need to consider the copyright protected works you used in your publication. When submitting your work to RaY or publication, you should not include significant amounts of copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner. There are some exceptions to copyright law which would allow the use of small extracts of copyright works without seeking permission, such as quotation.
Please contact the Research at York St John team or our Copyright & Licences Officer for further guidance.
Can I include the work of others in my publication?
Yes, there are several ways you could include the works of other in your publications.
There are exceptions to UK copyright law that allow you to include the works of other within your own publications, such as copying limited amounts of works for the purpose of quotation. Many of the exceptions to UK copyright law are subject to fair dealing and are based on the idea that reuse should be fair and limited. For more information about exceptions to UK copyright law, please see our section on copyright exceptions. For more information about fair dealing, please see our section on fair dealing.
Some works may have been published under an open licence, such as a Creative Commons licence. Open licences allow for the sharing, distribution and reuse of works. It is important to know what open licence has been applied to a work as there may be restrictions as to what you can do. For more information about open licences, please see our section on copyright licences.
If the work you you wish to include isn't licenced under an open licence or your use of a work goes beyond what would be considered fair, you will need to seek permission to use the work from the copyright owner.
It is also important to know that copyright does expire. If copyright of a work has expired, then you don’t need to seek permission to use the work. Different types of material have different periods of copyright protection. For further information, please reveiw our page on copyright essentials.
How do I get permission from copyright owners to use their work?
There will be instances when it will be necessary to obtain permission to use works. The time it takes to get copyright permission can vary depending on individual copyright holders. Contact them in writing (email or letter) and make sure to obtain permission in writing also. Many publishers now have dedicated online forms for permissions requests. For online material, try contacting the webmaster of the site or using the 'Contact us' section. Leave plenty of time to obtain permission – around 4–6 weeks – and if you do not receive a response, check your contact details and try again. Remember that not hearing back does not mean that you may use the material.
What are Creative Commons licences?
Creative Commons licences allow for the free copying, distribution and adaptations of works. Creative Commons offer six licences and how people can use different works, depends on the which licence has been applied. Anyone can apply a Creative Commons licence to their work.
For information about the different types of Creative Commons licences and how you can apply them to your work, please see our section on Creative Commons, or go directly to the Creative Commons website.
Can I share my publications on academic networking sites (e.g. ResearchGate)?
Before sharing publications on academic networking sites such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu you should consider your publishing contracts and any copyright restrictions. You may not have permission from your publishers to share particular versions of your work. Publishers have been known to issue take down notices and take legal actions against academic networking sites because the sharing of publications breaches copyright. If you wish to share your publications you could publish in an open access journal or release your work under a Creative Commons licence. This would allow you to self-archive your work in York St John’s Institutional Repository (RaY). By depositing your work in RaY, it may also be eligible for the REF.
I'm part of a collaborative research project, can we share copies of works?
When working on a collaborative research project, there may be times when you want to share works such as book chapters or journal articles with your research partners. UK copyright law has an exception for that allows people to make single, limited copies of works for private study and non-commercial research. These copies are subject to fair dealing and are for individual use only, so any copies made using this exception cannot be shared with anyone, including your research partners. Just because you have access to a work, it does not mean that you can copy and distribute the work, this would be copyright infringement. Instead of sharing copies you make with your research partners, you could share links or citations, so they can make single copies for themselves.
What is the ALCS?
The ALCS (Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society) is a non-for-profit, membership organisation for writers that collects royalty money due to UK works (books, articles and scripts) from around the world and then distributes the money owed to members. The money they collect is from ‘secondary uses’ of works, such as photocopies, digital reproductions and educational recordings. Anyone who has ever written anything that has been published or broadcast can join.
Please see the ALCS website for further information.