Skip to main content

Scholarly Communications: Author's Rights & Copyright Permissions

One stop shop for scholarly publishing and communication practices within the academy.

Author's Rights

Authors’ rights

  • Customarily, academic authors have often assigned their copyright to publishers. Recently, however, many authors have sought more long-term control over the copyright in the works they have created. They may want the flexibility to make their work openly available, either for educational purposes or for general readership. They may want to allow others to reuse their work in certain situations. The best way to keep that control and flexibility is by reading, understanding, and saving a copy of the publishing contract.
  • In 2005, UNC’s Faculty Council has passed a resolution stating, “Be it resolved that UNC-CH faculty are the owners of their research and should retain ownership and use open access publication venues whenever possible.”
  • Here are some tools to help you retain rights when you publish:
    • What rights would I like to retain when I publish? What does the contract the publisher sent me mean? Although we cannot act as your attorney, staff in the Scholarly Communications Office will be glad to discuss what your contract means and what your options are for retaining rights.
    • Know Your Copyrights, a resource booklet for faculty and teaching assistants,
    • Publishing contract addenda. Some authors handle the process of making changes in their publishing contracts by attaching an addendum. Here are two model addenda to consider:  the SPARC addendum, and the CIC addendum.

Getting Copyright Permission

How to seek copyright permission

  • The first step in seeking permission to use copyrighted work is to determine, to the extent possible, whether it is still in copyright. (See information on public domain, formalities, and copyright terms.) The second step is to determine the rights holder. Many publishers have information on their web sites explaining how to seek permission. In addition, consider whether fair use, or another copyright exception, applies for your situation.
  • Seeking permission can be a time-consuming process, and it is best to start well ahead of when the license is needed. Many rights holders will want as much information as possible about the intended use.  Remember that a lack of response from the rights holder does not equal consent. Optimally, permission should be obtained in writing.

Copyright Ownership

copyright ownership questions





Useful Links on Getting Copyright Permission

  • The Scholarly Communications Office staff can advise you on seeking copyright permission.


Who owns my work?

The University Committee on Copyright has received a number of questions about the ownership of faculty lecture materials including slides, videos, syllabi, and lecture content. Who has rights to reuse the content after it has been delivered by the creator? Do students have the right to sell this material or post it online for any reason? May others within the University reuse the material in the classroom or another setting (including distance classes) without permission of the original creator?

The Copyright Policy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill aims to balance the needs of the University to use employee work to fulfill its core mission with faculty expectations that they be compensated when their works are commercialized. In the context of the Copyright Policy lecture content (“pedagogical materials,” p.6) created by faculty or EPA non-faculty employees is usually considered to be Traditional or Non-Directed Work. The creator owns these materials, but the University receives from the creator “a non-exclusive, non-transferable, royalty-free license to use the work for the University’s own education or research use.”

This means that another University employee may use the material for classes but the creator should be given credit. If revenue is generated from use of the material, the creator would keep the royalties, unless the work used exceptional University resources, has been designated a directed work, is jointly owned with the university, or has been created by several people over a long period of time. In those cases, royalties are normally allocated according to procedures detailed in the Copyright Policy.

Students do not have rights to post or sell materials from a class without permission from the original faculty member who created the material. For example, students do not have rights to upload content that faculty have created to online learning platforms, such as Course Hero. In addition, although students own their work, the Copyright Policy forbids them from selling classroom notes and laboratory exercises they have created.

Many situations involving ownership of faculty work are complex. If you have further questions about copyright and the classroom, please contact Anne Gilliland, Scholarly Communications Officer at Davis Library (

  • Last Updated: Feb 10, 2021 10:27 AM
  • URL: