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Copyright at the University of San Francisco

Please note that this site should not be considered legal advice. It is to be used for educational purposes only. CC-BY unless otherwise noted.

What are your rights as an author? ​

In the "What is copyright?" section, there is a brief explanation of 1) what is copyrightable and 2) what are the rights for each copyright owner.

You'll note that there's actually a long list of rights. The word "copyright" is misleading because it implies one right. In fact you own many rights - not just to copy or sell, but also to make derivatives, such as translations. This is how novelists can sell their movie rights; they are selling the right to a derivative work (the movie) independent of the sale of their novel (the original work). 

Traditionally, academic journals and book publishers ask authors to sign away all their rights when they publish. This is called a copyright transfer or an exclusive license. Recently there has been push back against this practice, since digital rights now mean that books are never "out of print" and therefore rights never revert back to the author. Tools that authors can use include:

The Gleeson Library offers publication consultations as well as publication workshops for departments and organizations on campus. If you'd like to make an appointment, contact your liaison librarian.

Fair Use: Using Copyrighted Works in Your Works

Have you heard a song parody? Looked at appropriation art in a gallery? Maybe you've listened to some DJs or participated in remix culture?

Comedians, artists, authors, and other creators are free to use other copyrighted works - often without paying. How is this legal? The answer is because the new works are considered transformative, and give new meaning and purpose to the original work. This use relies in the part of copyright law that lays out exceptions for fair use.


U.S. Copyright Act, 17 USC 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use40

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.


You'll note that there are four factors, and we talk a little about evaluating for fair use in the section on teaching. We recommend the ALA Fair Use Checklist as a tool to help you determine if

1) your use of the original work is fair
2) the nature of the original work in relation to your use
3) that you've taken only as much of the work as you need
4) you don't harm the market/value of the original work

Academic research and publication often relies on fair use, and we've written about it more on this CRASE blog post:

USFFA and AAUP Guidance

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