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Authors and Print Media Publishers

Some people often use the terms “author rights” and “literary rights” to mean copyright. Copyrights are legal rights associated with certain types of intellectual property rights. Under federal law, copyrights are granted to creators of creative works in a fixed, tangible form at the time the work is created. The author does not need to claim or leave the copyright. 

Section 106 of the Copyright Act states that only the owner of the copyright has the right to use the work in one of six different ways:

To reproduce the work

For example, to make physical or digital copies of work for colleagues, students or others.

To prepare derivative works based upon the work

For example, to prepare a follow-up article, chapter or book based on their original or previous research on a particular topic.

To distribute copies of the work

For example, to distribute physical material or digital copies of their work to colleagues, students or at conferences.


To publicly perform the work

For example, to show a video of your fieldwork in class or at conferences


To publicly display the work

For example, to show photos in class or at conferences.

To publicly perform sound recordings via a digital audio transmission

For example, those who work with audio recordings for digital transmission of work through webcasting, etc.

​What are exclusive rights?

The Copyright Act provides that the six rights mentioned above can only be exercised by the copyright owner. However, since knowledge and society would not progress if only the copyright owner could deal with copyrighted works, there are two ways in which others can legally use copyrighted works. These are called copyright restrictions.

Copyright Limitations

Copyright is limited in two ways: Contractually and Statutorily. 

Although there are several legal restrictions, the two best known among researchers and librarians are “fair use” (§ 107) and the “libraries exception” (§ 108). When the legal restriction is applied, the work and accompanying copyrights continue to belong to the copyright owner, but the law allows others to use the work in certain circumstances. When a copyright expires (currently 70 years after the author’s death, although there are several nuances to this rule) the work is no longer protected by copyright and the public can use it as they wish.

Contractual restrictions occur when a copyright owner enters into a private agreement with another party that affects ownership or use of the copyrighted work. The six exclusive rights discussed above are often referred to as “groups of rights” because copyright owners control each right individually and as a group. When a copyright owner enters into an agreement with another party to allow the use of his rights, the owner may assign some, some, none, or all of his rights. He can transfer or license the rights. He can grant an exclusive or non-exclusive, irrevocable or revocable license. Because the flexibility of assigning rights is so tailored, authors have a lot of power to negotiate copyright agreements with publishers.

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