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Publishing in the Medical Sciences: Copyright

Welcome to Publishing in Medical Journals: A Place for Identifying the Best Publication for Your Research

Copyright & Publishing

In the traditional publishing model, copyright is generally transferred from author to publisher upon publication. Authors contract their work to the publisher who distributes their work; most traditional journals still abide by this process. The open access movement has modified this transaction into a more author-friendly business model. Whereas the traditional system severely limited an author's rights to use and preserve their own work, the open access model allows for the author to retain or reserve some of the rights to a publication. Authors who may want to reuse or build upon their work in the future can do so with services such as Creative Commons (see below). Copyright restrictions for certain elements of a publication's lifespan may still apply, but authors publishing under the open access criteria can have greater accessibility and more liberal licensing with their work.

Copyright Essentials

Copyright "is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" (USCO). Copyright applies to both published and unpublished works and offers exclusive rights to the creators of said works. Such rights inform both the commercial and non-commercial use of a work and include the privilege to:

  • Reproduce and distribute the original work
  • Perform or showcase it for private or commercial use
  • Develop or create derivative works from the original

What type of works can be copyrighted?

  • literary works (including scripts and works intended for performance)
  • pictorial or graphic works
  • audiovisuals and recordings
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