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Copyright: Journals & Copyright

A collection of resources on the subject of copyright.

Joint Works

Joint Works are works that are created by two or more authors with the intent of combining their works to create inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole. 

Each joint author has exclusive rights to the joint work and can choose to exercise any or all of these rights without the permission of the other joint authors.  These rights includes one of the joint authors can grant permission to a third party to use the work on a nonexclusive basis or a joint author can transfer their rights to another individual without the permission of the other joint authors. 

Joint authors have equal rights to register and enforce copyright of their works.


RoMEO is a database of searchable journal and publisher copyright agreements.  Use the search box available on the RoMEO website to search for copyright agreements and information by publisher, journal title, or ISSN.  Information is provided for each journal and publisher on what they allow authors to archive, general conditions, and links to the journal's copyright policy.

Transferring Copyright

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Most journals require that authors sign over their rights to publish and distribute their work through a Copyright Transfer Agreement prior to publication.  Some journals require that authors transfer full ownership of the copyright over to the publisher of the journal. This means that the author will no longer have any right to use, reproduce, distribute, or create derivative works based on the original work. Other journals may only require the author to transfer the right to first publication or the exclusive publishing right to the work. 

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) allows authors to retain some of the rights to their copyrighted work.  According to the NEJM Author Permissions section, they allow authors to:

  • Republish the content in a book chapter or journal article
  • Post the content on their personal web site  
  • Post the content on their academic institution's secure intranet
  • Include the content in their non-commercial thesis or dissertation
  • Reprint the content in a printed collection of their writing
  • Hand out printed copies of the content in classes that they teach that have no commercial ties (i.e., those sponsored by academic institutions or scientific societies)
  • Deposit the content in their academic institution's secure online repository, provided that any such use is accompanied by a reference to the articles first publication in the New England Journal of Medicine
  • Distribute the content to scientists for their non-commercial use

JAMA, however, does not allow authors to retain their copyright ownership. According to the JAMA Sample Authorship Form, the American Medical Association (AMA) requires authors to transfer their complete copyright ownership to the AMA upon submission and acceptance of the article for publication.

It is important that authors carefully read and consider the copyright transfer agreements that they are asked to sign with the submission of any works for publication.  Consider how you would like to use the work in the future before you sign the copyright transfer agreement form. Always retain a copy of the copyright transfer agreement form for your records.

To find out more about publication agreements, including what can happen with bad agreements and how to go about negotiating a better agreement go to Columbia University Libraries and Information Services Copyright Advisory Office's Publication Agreement page.

Author Rights

Listed below are several resources for author addendums that can be attached to a publisher's copyright transfer agreement that allow the author to retain some of their copyright ownership rights.

Seeking Permission

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services' Copyright Advisory Office Copyright website has a section on seeking permission to use copyrighted works from its owner.  The Permission section includes information on

  • Finding the Owner
  • Complex Searches
  • Collective Licensing Agencies
  • Requesting Permission
  • What to do If You Cannot Find the Owner