A beginner’s guide to copyright

EveProject management

Sometimes when publishing a document, particularly in academic publishing, you need to include material reproduced from another publication. This is covered by copyright law. To reproduce material created by someone else, you may need to seek permission from the copyright holder.

Copyright is usually owned by the originator of the work; however, publishers often require authors to transfer copyright to them, and this is particularly true of academic publishers. Whether or not permission is required, and how to obtain it, depends on the material (e.g. quotations, photographs, maps) and the original source.

Journal articles

Authors often erroneously believe that they own the copyright to material they have written and which has been published in a journal. In many cases, they will have been asked to sign a copyright transfer agreement or licence agreement before their article is published, and the publisher now controls whether or not the material can be reproduced. It is not usually costly or difficult for authors to obtain permission to reproduce their own material, but permission must be sought all the same.

When requesting permission, authors should be as detailed and as truthful as possible about their intended use of the material (e.g. print and/or online publication, number of copies distributed) so that the licence is valid, especially important if they are required to pay a fee.

Books

Short quotations from a book can often be reproduced without seeking formal permission. The copyright could be held by the author or the publisher.

The copyright holder for a multi-author book might differ by chapter. If the contributors, or the institutions for which they work, retain copyright then each chapter might have a different copyright notice.

However, this might not be the case if copyright for the whole book has been transferred to, for example, the publisher.

Online sources

It is a commonly held belief that material that has been published online and is freely available to view is similarly freely available to use. This is not always the case, and it is necessary to investigate the copyright status of material any website or download before reusing it.

The copyright holder is usually identified on the website.

Photographs

The copyright holder of a photograph is usually the photographer, and permission should be sought before these can be reproduced.

If photographs are taken as part of a study or trial, researchers will often ask the photographer to grant permission for any in subsequent publications.

Acknowledgements

It is a legal requirement that the sources of any reproduced material be given, whether or not it was necessary to obtain permission for their use.

Check the permission correspondence and/or licence supplied and be sure to comply with any instructions for specific wording and/or placing (e.g. immediately below the illustration) stipulated by the copyright holder.

Exceptions

There are some exceptions to the above. For example work created in the UK and EU by someone who has been dead for more than 70 years is no longer in copyright. However, there are exceptions to this exception. For example, copyright will still be in place for a new edition of a work from an author who has been dead for over 70 years, if it has been changed in anything other than very minor ways.

You are also occasionally allowed to reproduce short extracts of works for non-commercial research or private study, but this should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Summary

Copyright permission should usually be sought before you can reproduce material owned by someone else.

The copyright holder is often the author of the work but there are exceptions, and the rules for requesting copyright permission can be variable. Therefore, authors should always check the copyright status before reproducing information, and seek permission when necessary.

We are experienced in handling copyright issues on behalf of our clients and authors, and are happy to include copyright management, advice and assistance in our project management service if you wish it.