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Research Commons

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Navigating the Article Publication Process

Who is an author under U.S. Copyright Law?

Copyright ownership is given initially to the author of the work. Copyright may then be transferred, in whole or in part, to other individuals or entities, such as publishers.

Joint Works: In some cases, a work may be created by more than one author. When a work is prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole, the work is considered a “joint work” under U.S. Copyright Law. The authors of a joint work are co-owners of copyright in the work.

Works made for hire: One important exception to the default rule of copyright ownership, is for works made for hire. Works made for hire can arise in two ways: (1) a work is prepared by an employee within the scope of their employment or (2) the work is a specially ordered or commissioned work that falls within a limited number of permissible categories under the law, and both parties agree in writing that the work is considered a work made for hire.

If a work is made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered the author and copyright owner of the work.

Other policies impacting authorship:

U.S. Copyright law defines an “Author” for purposes of copyright. In addition, institutions may set their own internal policies to determine the scope of rights held by their employees (more detail on OSU’s Intellectual Property Policy is found below).

Many disciplines also have best practices regarding who may be listed as an author of a work for collaborators of a scientific or scholarly manuscript or creative work. The Ohio State University Authorship Guidelines may be used in defining rights, responsibilities, roles, and order of authorship.

What rights does an author have?

The law provides a copyright owner with a number of exclusive rights. A copyright owner may authorize others to:

  1. Reproduce the work;
  2. Prepare derivative works;
  3. Distribute copies of the work publicly;
  4. Publicly perform the work;
  5. Publicly display the work; and
  6. If the work is a sound recording, publicly perform the work through digital audio transmission.

This means a copyright owner has rights over the copying, sharing, and adaption of their work. These rights, however, are limited through a number of exceptions in the law.

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Copyright Information | Details and Exceptions