Copyright in Publishing
In biomedical publishing, copyright protects everything from your outline and first rough draft to the final published article. No special action is needed to secure copyright. Until a manuscript is accepted for publication, the authors are the copyright holders. After a manuscript is accepted, most authors will be asked to sign a license that transfers copyright ownership to the publisher.
Consider Your Funding when Signing a Copyright Agreement
When MD Anderson authors are submitting a manuscript for possible publication, they should let the publisher know if their manuscript was funded in whole or in part by the NIH. This will prompt the publisher to either submit the article to PubMed Central on behalf of the author, or allow authors to submit a version of their manuscript after publication. Learn more about this here.
Choosing a Copyright License when Publishing
If you are publishing in an open-access journal the publisher may ask you to select a copyright license. Here are the most common options available:
- CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives) – This is the most common license used by open access journals. This license allows the author or public to copy, distribute, and transmit the article without permission, as long as the author and the source are cited. This license does not allow the published work to be used for commercial purposes, and no modifications to the original work are allowed.
- CC BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommerical) – This license allows the author or public to copy, distribute, and transmit the article without permission, as long as the author and the source are cited, and it is not being used for commercial purposes. This license allows the author or reader to make modifications to the article.
- CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike) – This license allows users to copy, distribute, and transmit the article without permission, as long as the author and source are cited, and it is not being used for commercial purposes. Modifications to the article are allowed, but anyone who modifies the work must share it under the same license.
- CC-BY (Attribution) – This is the least restrictive license, which allows any user to “distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work,” as long as the author and source are cited. This license allows for text mining and other automated processes. Any work with a CC-BY license can be used commercially or non-commercially.
Obtaining Permission to Use Previously Published Figures or Text
It is a professional courtesy to ask the author’s permission to reprint published figures or text. Many authors do not retain the copyright of their published works, which means, from a legal perspective, the permission you need is from the publisher of the text. Many publishers use the Copyright Clearance Center or have an online form you can fill out. For journal articles, the link to this form may be on the same web page as the article itself. If not, from the journal or publisher’s home page, look for a menu option called “Rights and permissions,” “Permission to re-use content,” or something similar.
Modifying a Figure or Table to Publish Elsewhere
There’s no “magic” number of changes required to make a figure or table your own. The changes should be substantial—if someone looking at the original version and your version side by side would think they are similar, you probably have not made enough changes. If you like an original figure or table, you can approach the copyright holder (and author, if the author is not the copyright holder) for permission to reprint the item as is or to publish an adapted version of the item.
Copyright in Education
Fair use permits educators to make use of others’ works for noncommercial educational purposes. However, educators must measure the four factors of fair use:
- Is it for a nonprofit, educational purpose or commercial and for-profit?
- Is it a factual or creative work?
- How much of the work are you going to use?
- Will the use affect the market value of the original work?
Best Practices for Using Materials for an Educational Purpose
- Link to a publication, video, or image instead of posting it to your course.
- MD Anderson staff may check RightFind Academic to determine if we have an academic license for the article, image, etc. that you want to use. Most academic licenses will allow users to post materials on an intranet or closed online course.
- Add a time limit on how long the image is posted online. Box will allow you to set a time limit.
- MD Anderson staff may use free images available from Brand Central, Creative Services, Creative Commons. You may also filter your searches for freely available images in Flickr or Google Images.
- To use an image, figure, table, video, etc. in an online presentation or outside of the institution, you must either purchase the rights or ask for permission.
For more information, you can watch our webinar on the Educator's Guide to Copyright.