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Research Guides@Tufts

Scholarly Publishing

Copyright for authors

Copyright is a form of legal protection for authors of original academic and creative works. U.S. law grants copyright holders a bundle of exclusive rights, including rights to reproduce, distribute, and display works. Since 1978, copyright is automatically granted to the creator of a work at the moment of creation without any need to register. 

For work created at Tufts, the Tufts Intellectual Property policy states:

  • for faculty: "...ownership of copyrightable intellectual property shall remain with the faculty member"
  • for students: "Students generally own the copyright to academic work they produce. Academic work can include class papers, theses, dissertations, artistic and musical works, and other creative works produced by University students."

Therefore, if you're a Tufts author, you likely hold copyright to your work unless it was transferred to someone else (like a journal publisher).

If you'd like to use someone else's copyrighted work (images, figures, text, video, etc.) in your own work, you may need to seek permission.

Read more about copyright from the Tufts Scholarly Communications Team.

Author's rights

All publishers will require you to sign or click through an author’s agreement before publishing an article. This contract will spell out what rights you retain as an author, and what rights the publisher reserves from your work. Look for:

  • Do you keep copyright to your work?
  • Can you post a copy in the Tufts Digital Library, on a pre-print server, or another scholarly sharing site?
  • Can you reuse content published in the article? (if you’re a grad student, check especially to see if you can use it in your thesis!)

Why is this important? Because if an author’s agreement grants all rights to the publisher, you’ll have to ask permission to use or share your own work in the future. Read more about author’s rights.

To find out more about publisher’s policies:

  • Look up the journal in Sherpa Romeo or search for an article by DOI at How Can I Share It?
  • Try Googling “[Journal name] author’s rights”
  • Ask us! We can help you evaluate a contract before signing it, or help determine what rights you have to an article you’ve already published.


Creative Commons licenses are public copyright licenses that grant specific levels of permission for reuse of a work without having to ask the creator for permission.

If you're a creator of a work, assigning a Creative Commons license tells others exactly how they can use your work and contributes to the spread of information and creation of new knowledge. Find out more about the licenses.

You can find images, video, music, articles, and more with Creative Commons licenses. These can be incorporated into your publications under the terms of the license without having to ask for permission. See our Finding media to download guide for sources of CC-licensed media.

Seeking permission to use someone else's work

If you'd like to use someone else's copyrighted work (images, figures, text, video, etc.) in your own published work, you may need to seek permission.

Note that your use of copyrighted material may fall under fair use, but many publishers require written permission and do not accept fair use as proof of permission to use someone else's work in your published book or article.

You might also look for openly-licensed images, audio, video, or text to use that don't require asking permission before using. See our guide to finding media to download or for finding open educational resources (textbooks and other learning materials shared under an open license).

If you have any questions about if you need to seek permission for a particular use or how to do it, get in touch!

General resources

Requesting permission to use text or figures from a journal article or book

Most journal or publisher pages provide instructions for requesting permission. Visit the publisher's website or try searching for "permissions [publisher's name]".

Artist registries

Databases of copyright contacts for writers & artists.

Sample request letters

If the material you'd like to use isn't available through a formal rights request process - either through a publisher or through a rights society - you might try writing directly to the copyright owner to request permission.

Note that these samples are both requesting permission to reuse something in print, but could be adapted for digital publication.