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Copyright & Digital Projects: Step 4: How do you want to share?

Creating and publishing a digital project? Discover a workflow for answering copyright and other law & policy-related digital publishing questions.

STEP 4: How do you want to share?

Step 4: How do you want to share?

⇒ Address how you want to share or license your work.

  • You're publishing your project online. Step 4 helps you consider your rights as an author when your scholarshiop is published in this manner.

⇒ Should you register your copyright?

  • As explained in the Understand Copyright Basics page, copyright is automatically created once your original work is fixed in a tangible medium (such as being saved on your computer hard drive or in cloud storage). You continue to own copyright unless and until you transfer your copyright to another party. Thus, you do not need to register copyright in order to be the copyright holder.
  • However, registering copyright in your project offers distinct advantages (see p. 7 of the Copyright Office circular). First, registering your work creates public record evidence that you are indeed the author and owner. Second, registration allows for greater enforcement of your copyright against an infringer or plagiarist, enabling you to file suit and later making available statutory damages (set out in Title 17, Section 504 of the U.S. Code), which range from $750-$150,000 plus attorney's fees per copyright infringement. 
  • If you decide to register copyright for your scholarship, you can do so through the Copyright Office's website for a fee of $45.

⇒ How should you license your work?

  • A license beyond fair use
    • As with any other copyrighted work, other scholars can make fair use of your scholarship in their own research. Since you own copyright over your work, however, you can decide whether you want to license your work beyond what fair use already allows.

  • Consider your choices
    • There are several reasons why you might wish to license your work. One reason could be to contribute to knowledge building and scientific or artistic progress. Certainly, people can already make fair use of your material, but by licensing it you are encouraging thus facilitating their use of your work. Another reason might be that making it easier for other people to use your material could translate into their using your work more often--which means being cited more often, and increasing your scholarly impact and profile. 

  • How to license your work
    • If you do wish to license your digital scholarship, one option is to use a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses allow copyright holders to prescribe the scope of uses (beyond fair use) that others are able to make of their work--while still retaining copyright ownership for the creator (that is, you are licensing your work for others to use, not transferring your copyright ownership).

    • Just be sure to check whether you have entered into licenses, employment or other agreements, or received funding and grants that control how and whether you can or must license your project. License your work according to the terms of these other agreements or provisions.