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Copyright: Information for Researchers

Introduction for researchers

Disseminating research outputs is essential to the success of the institution and its researchers. However, it is important that this dissemination takes account of copyright law, and that researchers act according to the licences or conditions agreed with publishers, funding agencies and other relevant parties.

The Library Research Support pages will give you useful advice regarding your research activities.

In addition, further information about Open Access research outputs is available from our Scholarly Communications Librarian.

Detailed copyright support is available from our Postgraduate Research Guide: Effective information management guide.

Our Research Data Management pages offer advice, tools, and support to help you to manage your data and your research project effectively.

It is essential that any third party materials used by researchers adheres to copyright law in any of the systems and communication channels used such as Dropbox, Google Docs, email, personal websites.

If you are not able to find the information you are looking for or seek additional advice, please feel free to contact your Liaison Librarian or the Licensing Manager with your particular query.

Information for Researchers



It is often the case that in publishing your research results in a subscription-based journal you will need to sign a copyright transfer or copyright assignment form. This means that you no longer own the copyright in that work, and may be prevented from doing things like revising and adapting the paper for new publication, re-using the paper as a chapter in a book, distributing copies to colleagues, and so on. Note you may still be able to do this if the publisher agrees, but the decision rests with the publisher, not you. Publishers can then, for example, charge high fees to members of the public to read your paper.

Sometimes the agreement you sign with a publisher might be less restrictive, and if you are unsure, or wish to amend the standard copyright agreements requested by a publisher, then you should discuss with your publisher alternatives.

The Joint Information Systems Committee (UK) and SURF (Netherlands) have created a model copyright licence that you may wish to use in negotiation with a publisher. This involves granting a publisher a non-exclusive licence to publish, freeing authors to retain copyright in their work and re-use it elsewhere should they wish.

Open Access to academic outputs is not just about free access to academic outputs - it is also concerned with being more explicit and more open about the potential uses of those outputs. Open Access publishing does not require academic authors to give up their copyright in the same way as subscription-based publishing. Outputs available on an Open Access basis can, depending on the licensing terms used for their publication, be downloaded for offline reading, printed and distributed to students, be open to automated text mining, and so on.

Note that publishing your work on an Open Access basis does not involve giving up all rights in your work - indeed, as the licensing terms are looser than the "all rights reserved" model, publishing your work on an Open Access basis gives you more control of how your work is distributed, allowing you to post your work in an online repository, re-use it in other publications, and so on, while freeing other users of your work from worries that downloading your work might be illegal.

Further information on Open Access is available from our Scholarly Communications Librarian.

One of the most common ways of licensing publications on an Open Access basis is to use a Creative Commons licence (the link directs you to the Creative Commons UK website).

Creative Commons licences are ways of informing readers what they can and can't do with a published work, and offer a middle ground between the "all rights reserved" approach of copyright and the "anyone can do anything" approach of the public domain - in other words, the philosophy of Creative Commons can be summarised as "some rights reserved".

Creative Commons licences provide a range of limitations that can be placed on the use of a published work - you can discover the variety of limitations at the Creative Commons choose a licence web page. For example, you could allow people to freely distribute your work but not alter it in any way; allow people to alter your work, but derive no commercial advantage from it; and so on.

The RCUK Open Access Policy requires that any journal articles or published conference papers arising from RCUK-funded work made available on a Gold Open Access basis must carry a Creative Commons Attribution Licence, abbreviated as CC-BY. This is a very open licence that allows academic publications to be distributed freely, text mined, and incorporated into other works, provided that attribution is given to the authors.

Of particular interest to researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences will be the OAPEN Guide to Creative Commons, which addresses many of the questions such scholars ask in relation to these licences.

Contact us

For assistance with the recording and reporting procedure and initial queries about the Licence, please contact the appropriate Liaison Librarian.

For further enquiries about copyright and licensing, please contact the Licensing Manager.