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Scholarly Communications & Publishing

This guide provides an introduction to some of the central topics in scholarly communication and explains the WVU Libraries' services in these areas.

Copyright Basics

When you write a paper, you automatically own the copyright to your work unless and until you explicitly transfer your copyright to another party through a written agreement. Your copyright is really a bundle of rights that includes exclusive rights to your work, including:

  • Reproduction
  • Distribution
  • Public performance
  • Public display
  • Creation of derivative works

When your article is reviewed and accepted for publication in a journal, you will be asked to sign an agreement to allow the journal to publish your work. Many journals use copyright transfer agreements as their standard publication agreement. If you sign a copyright transfer agreement with a publisher, you transfer your copyright to the publisher. Unless the agreement includes provisions allowing you to retain some of your rights, you may no longer have the right to place your work on websites or researcher profile pages (e.g. ResearchGate,, use your work in teaching your courses, reuse the work in subsequent works, or deposit the work in an online digital archive.

When you publish your paper, it's important to think about the rights you wish to retain. Transferring your copyright does not have to be an all or nothing affair, and some publishers are willing to negotiate which rights are transferred and which you may retain.

Publication Agreements

Under US Copyright law, authors hold copyright to their works upon the point at which the work is expressed in a tangible or fixed form (e.g., you save your Word document). As the copyright holder, you have the exclusive right to copy, distribute or perform your work, unless and until you give permission to others to do so. In order to publish your work, publishers simply need your permission to do so. Nevertheless, many publishers use standard agreements that transfer all of your rights to the publisher. However, as the copyright owner, you have the power to negotiate the terms under which your work can be published. An easy an effective way to do this is by attaching an addendum to the publisher agreement. Addenda can be used to alter the terms of the publisher's agreement and retain the rights that are important to you.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides copyright-licenses that may be freely adopted. These Creative Commons licenses offer creators a way to retain copyright to their works while allowing others to copy, distribute, and reuse the work in question. Creative Commons offers a variety of licenses that allow creators to specify the ways in which their work may be distributed or reused by choosing which of the following conditions to apply to their work.

Creative Commons Attribution logo


Attribution (BY)

All Creative Commons licenses require that others who use your work give credit in the manner you request (but not in a way that suggests that you endorse or support them in their use of your work).


ShareAlike (SA)

You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and modify your work, as long as they distribute any modified work on the same terms. If they want to distribute modified works under other terms, they must get your permission first.


NonCommercial (NC)

You allow others to copy, distribute, display, perform, and (unless you have chosen NoDerivatives) modify and use your work for any purpose other than commercially unless they get your permission first.


NoDerivatives (ND)

You let others copy, distribute, display and perform only original copies of your work. If they want to modify your work, they must get your permission first.