Author Rights and Copyright


Under Canadian law, copyright for intellectual work belongs to the author from the time of creation. However, when authors assign copyright to a commercial publisher, they normally forfeit the rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and modification of the original work. Author rights are whatever remains after copyright has been reassigned. In the absence of prior negotiation with the publisher, these may include only the moral rights (i.e. non-pecuniary interests) in a work, namely the attribution right and the integrity right, which are protected internationally under the Berne Convention and are not relinquished by transfer of copyright. In the Canadian implementation of moral rights, “the right to the integrity of the work” is not absolute, but “the right … to be associated with the work as its author by name or under a pseudonym” is unequivocal, and includes “the right to remain anonymous” (Copyright Act R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42, sections 14 and 28).

Authors may always use their own work in the manner specified in the “exceptions” section of the Copyright Act, notably fair dealing (Copyright Act R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42, sections 29 through 32.2). (On the SPARC website, mentioned below, these exceptions are referred to as the “statutory exemptions.”) Nonetheless, for professional academics, losing the unrestricted right to copy, distribute, or repurpose their own work, or to give others permission to do so, can be very disadvantageous. It could prevent you from posting your work to a personal website or online archive, distributing it to colleages, or incorporating portions of it into a future publication.

Open Access publication is the most direct way of retaining copyright and control of your work. When Open Access publication is not possible, we recommend consulting the SHERPA/RoMEO website for a summary of the permissions normally included in journal publishers’ copyright agreements. If these are insufficient for your purposes, we recommend attaching an author addendum to the publisher's copyright transfer agreement so that you can keep the rights to use and distribute your own work. The Canadian SPARC Author Addendum is available in English and French.

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