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The library does not and cannot give legal advice - we're librarians, not your lawyers! But just like most other types of questions, librarians are happy to talk to you about your question and point you to resources to help you find an answer.
This guide reflects the most common questions, concerns, and comments we hear at the library about copyright, open access, and related issues. We expect it to grow as new questions arise.
Why is the library interested in copyright? Copyright is legal protection for certain creative works that controls who may legally copy, sell, display, perform, or adapt those works. In the United States, it comes from Title 17 of the U.S. Code, and it applies to "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression," including books, articles, movies, and music - in other words, most of the things accessed in or through the library.
Members of the UCSC community are users of copyrighted works and copyright holders in works they create. They have questions about when and how to use the works of others in their teaching and study, and about their rights in the things they write and create. These questions can be very fact-specific, and we cannot give legal advice, but we can provide a framework of information that we hope will allow you to understand some basic rules and find some answers.
Scholarly communication can mean just what it sounds like - any communication resulting from scholarship, intended to add to the scholarly record. In some circumstances this could mean a video or sound recording, or other communications, but most often refers to the written word. In particular, it usually refers to articles in scholarly journals (especially peer-reviewed journals), although it often includes scholarly books, conference proceedings, and similar works.
As technology advances and ideas about scholarship change, discussions are developing around a number of scholarly communication issues, including models of peer review, business models for journal publishing, strategies for preservation, and formats of publication. Sometimes "scholarly communication" is used as a synonym or shorthand for "open access," the movement to make scholarly literature freely available online, either by the method of original publication (like in an open access journal) or by archiving in open access repositories.
Sometimes they don't have anything to do with each other. For instance, some traditional subscription-based journals require authors to transfer their copyright to the journal; others do not. An open access journal could require authors to transfer their copyright to the journal; generally they do not. Copyright ownership as a whole isn't the only thing that can be transferred; copyright includes a bundle of rights like distribution and duplication that can be given together or separately, exclusively or to multiple people.
Copyright and open access are often discussed together because most efforts to change traditional models of scholarly communication contemplate a) authors transferring fewer exclusive copyright rights to publishers, and/or b) allowing users to do things - like copy and redistribute the work - that copyright law often requires people to get permission for. To learn more about what copyright and open access do and don't have to do with each other, read this explanation by Peter Suber from the SPARC Open Access Newsletter.