As an author, you automatically own copyright for your works unless the work was done for hire for an employer who then holds the rights. Holding copyright means you can reuse or share your work. As author, you have the exclusive right to:
You can easily lose these rights, by signing them away in a publisher's agreement. Signing a publisher's agreement may transfer some or all of your rights to the publisher. This can prevent you from reusing your own work in a subsequent work, from putting it on course Web sites, copying it for students or colleagues, or depositing it in a public online archive. As John Willinsky has pointed out in his First Monday article (v.7, Nov. 4, 2002) “Why the publisher requires the complete transfer of ownership is not at all clear, when what is at issue for the journal is first publication rights.” To check the rights policies of your publisher, go to the SherpaRomeo website.
If your work was funded by an agency such as National Institute of Health (NIH), you may be required to deposit work into a repository such as PubMed Central. Check under requirements at Sherpa/Juliet.
You can still sign a publisher's agreement and retain some rights by adding an addendum to the agreement. The SPARC Author Addendum is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher's agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles.
The law allows you to transfer copyright while holding back rights for yourself and others. Here are some ways to hold back rights:
Creative Commons is "a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build up the work of others." It provides six free licenses to designate how authors want to share their work.
You can give your work added protection by registering it with the U.S. Copyright Office for a fee. Registering works make them a matter of public record and provide the author with a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Registration may be particularly advisable in the case of creative works such as movies and recorded music that are prone to infringement. Such works may also be preregistered if its creation is in process and may take some time to complete.
Joint authors own their work equally unless they have signed an agreement otherwise. Each author has the right to exercise any of the author rights without the consent of the other joint authors.
Retaining your copyright over your musical works will give you more control over how people use your musical creations. This video, Music Publishing 101, is an introduction to rights of copyright holders in music publishing.
Music Copyright Basics:
Retaining your copyright over your artistic works will give you more control over how people use your creations.