Your copyright - or is it?
Copyright subsists automatically in anything you create, without any need to register it, or mark it with a copyright symbol. Copyright does not cover ideas, but only the physical manifestations of them. The work must involve skill, labour, judgement and effort in the creation to be considered original. If you produce something in collaboration with others, the copyright will be shared between you, and all parties would have to agree on any uses of the material.
One aspect to consider is that until you publish your work, it may be difficult to prove that you were the originator. It could be useful to find a means of proving that you created an item on a particular date – computer records, perhaps some date-stamped photographs, or a video recording, or by keeping earlier drafts of the work. For digital creations you can make use of metadata fields or digital watermarks. www.copyrighthub.co.uk/protect/Mark has some suggestions for ways to do these things.
If you are creating work in the course of your employment at Edinburgh Napier University, the university considers that it owns the copyright. If you are writing books or articles, the university will normally waive any claims to copyright, which will allow you to set up agreements with publishers.
If you decide to share your work online, prior to publication, you should still be protected by copyright, though others are permitted to “quote” your work. However, you should take care not to lose control of material that you will need later for publication. To be on the safe side, you should check the terms and conditions of any social media provider you may be using, to make sure you are not assigning them more rights to re-use material than you wish.
If you have invented something that has commercial value, for example, and could be patented, the situation is likely to be different. The university will probably want to enter into an agreement with you for exploitation of the idea, under the terms of the university’s Intellectual Property policy.
Publishing in books – things to look out for
Publishing in journals – things to look out for
Protecting your Copyright
You will need to decide early on whether you wish to exploit your content on your own via social media or your website, or whether to publish it formally in books or journals.
If you decide to publish your work in books or journals, you will normally be transferring the distribution rights to the work to the publisher, in return for royalty payments. This only relates to the first sale of a physical item, but may include additional restrictions on use of digital materials.
Other rights which can be licensed include copying, scanning, recording, renting, performing, broadcasting (including internet), or adaptations, such as translation. Make sure you know which rights you are assigning when you enter into any arrangements with publishers and distributors.
There may be other options, such as to license specific aspects of a work, what kind of uses you will permit, and whether it is for a limited period. This may be preferable in some cases to transferring or selling the rights to your work outright.
Licences can grant exclusive use to only one license-holder, or can be non-exclusive and licensed to multiple license-holders.
You may wish to join one of the Collecting Societies for authors, which pass on additional revenue that your work may attract such as copying fees via the Copyright Licensing Agency, or public library lending. There are similar societies for creators of images and music. Here are a few:
|ALCS – Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society
|PPL - licenses recorded music played in public or broadcast
|PRS for Music – Performing Right Society and Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society –licenses performances and recordings
|DACS – Design and Artists Copyright Society
If you need to license your Research Data, the Digital Curation Centre web pages can provide advice.
Regardless of how you decide to handle these economic rights, you will retain moral rights in your work. You remain entitled to be identified as the creator of your work, and to object if anyone uses your work in an inappropriate way. This right does not arise until it has been asserted, so it is good practice to include a statement to this effect – you will see them in many published works.
You can’t give away your moral rights, but you can permit someone (in writing) to use your work in some particular way if you wish.
Opening up your content - Creative Commons
If you want to share your digital work quite freely, one way to protect your copyright when you share your work by using the suite of Creative Commons licenses, and their associated symbols. These offer you several levels of protection to select, or if you prefer you can decide you would like your work to be openly available to all as long as you are acknowledged as the creator.
You'll find information on the different levels of Creative Commons license available, on the Creative Commons Copyright Guidance.
There is an interesting JISC Guide to Creative Commons for Humanities and Social Science Monograph Authors, which contains information useful for all subjects. It is probably no longer fully up-to-date, but may still contain useful information.
Software programmers may wish to use the GNU General Public License or similar if they wish their work to be freely available. Again, make sure this does not go against university policy if you want to use such things.