All authors, whether they are a faculty member publishing a monograph, a grant-funded researcher publishing a scholarly article, or a graduate student writing a dissertation, need to be familiar with the basic concepts of copyright and have an awareness of the options for publishing, posting, archiving and distributing their scholarship.
Copyright applies automatically and does not need to be registered to be considered legally protected. As the copyright owner of a work you own what is referred to as the "bundle of rights." This means that as the copyright holder you (and only you) have the ability to copy, distribute, adapt, display, or perform a work. (Of course, there is the fair use exemption which you can learn more about on our Fair Use Page.)
You can transfer these rights in part or in their entirety. Publishers draft agreements or contracts that outline the transfer of some or all of these rights. If you aren't careful, you could transfer all your rights to the publisher which could severely limit subsequent use of your own work, including in teaching and further research. If you've transferred copyright to the publisher, you have very little say (if any) in how the work is later used, which could include creating an anthology or commercially sold textbook.
Before You Sign That Contract!: Harvard's guide to copyright and publishing.
Clauses for Writers: Columbia Law School dissects contracts and offers up helpful language for writers.
Copyright and Authorsʼ Rights: A Briefing Paper (by Kevin L. Smith, J.D. & David R. Hansen, J.D., Duke University for OASIS)
Creative Commons Termination of Transfer Tool: Use this tool to make an educated guess about whether US Copyright law's "termination rights" are relevant to your work so that you can take steps to reclaim ownership of your work.
An Introduction to Publication Agreements for Authors (by Timothy K. Armstrong)
Model Publishing Contract for Digital Scholarship (from Emory U & U of Michigan): Guide for authors who want to incorporate digital tools and methods into their work and offer it in a networked environment.
Rights reversion (from the Author's Alliance): This guide offers several resources to authors who want to reclaim ownership (copyright) of their works
Sherpa/ROMEO: This database contains journal copyright and publication policies. It's a great place to start looking to see what you can and cannot do with your publication during the many stages of the editorial process.
SPARC Author Rights & Addendum: Provides information on thinking through your rights as an example. It also includes links to an author rights brochure and to a sample addendum to a publishing contract to preserve your rights when negotiating with a publisher.
Understanding and Negotiating Book Publication Contracts: This book from the Authors Alliance was designed to help authors to learn about the basics of copyright law, and how copyright shapes the author-publisher relationship; evaluate the pros and cons of assigning and/or licensing their copyrights; understand the responsibilities of authors and publishers in preparing, designing, and marketing a book; clarify financial matters such as advances, royalties, and accounting statements; consider options for making their books available to readers in the short and long term and advocate and negotiate for contract terms that help them meet their creative and pragmatic goals.