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Copyright & Your Scholarship

Can I Share My Work?

You may decide to transfer your copyright to your publisher or, even if you retain your copyright, to agree to certain conditions about how you will disseminate your scholarship. So what happens when you want to preserve a copy of your research in the Libraries' digital collections, post a PDF to your website, share it via social networking sites like, or re-publish it as part of an anthology?

  • Before you sign anything, ask! Read the fine print of your agreement with your publisher, and get as much information as you can about your ability to disseminate your work in other contexts.
  • Check the SHERPA/ROMEO database. This is a great tool that aggregates information about journal publisher policies so you don't have to go searching on each journal's website.
  • Even if you have signed, ask anyway. Many publishers will grant you permission to share your scholarship in limited ways, but you may need to obtain such permission in writing (including email).

Open Access & Open Licensing

Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard University Office for Scholarly Communications, offered this definition of "open access" in an overview he first published in 2004:

Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

Perspectives on the impact of free, open access to scholarship--including journal articles, datasets, monographs, and more--abound. These issues are inextricably related to copyright law. While there is sometimes a misconception that open access models are fundamentally opposed to copyright law, in many cases those in favor of open access actually encourage broader awareness and education in copyright, since making scholarship open usually means asking authors to be more explicit about the ways in which their research output may be reused without permission.

There are different models of open access publishing, and not all of them allow the same kinds of rights for either scholars or their audiences. For instance, the HowOpenIsIt? Guide provides a useful chart that looks at open access policies along a spectrum.

If you hold the copyright to your scholarship and/or if your publisher allows it, you might decide to make your work available under a Creative Commons license, which specifies ways that your work can be shared, adapted, or reused. There are six licenses, ranging from the most open to the most restrictive. This flowchart is a helpful tool for deciding which license is right for you.

Below are a few of the many available resources on open access; the Copyright and Scholarly Communications Office can help you delve further into these issues.

How the University Libraries Can Help

At the Ball State University Libraries, we are scaling up services to support open access to scholarship in a range of different ways:

  • Cardinal Scholar: This digital repository offers a backbone for many other services. With it, scholars, students, and staff can deposit the digital products of their research to ensure long-term preservation and public access. Visit Cardinal Scholar.

  • Publishing Services: A number of journals and other publications rely on the Libraries for support in disseminating their work to the public. Recently, we introduced the Open Journal Systems platform as one solution for faculty and student-led academic journal publishing endeavors. Contact us if you are interested in learning more about this service.

  • Data sharing: Increasingly, funders require documentation and implementation of plans for sharing research data. The Libraries can help draft such plans and help researchers navigate the options for data preservation and dissemination.

All of these services involve crucial questions regarding copyright, including choices regarding the rights of authors contributing to publications and the preservation of third-party copyrighted material. Contact Copyright and Scholarly Communications Manager Donald Williams for more information.