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Prepare to Write

Who Owns Copyright?

A crowd of people

Who are the copyright owners for your open textbook?

Determining who will own copyright for the various components in an open textbook — before writing begins — is very important. This was one of the first items that BCcampus project managers discussed with authors, and the results were included in the contracts they signed. We learned early on that a faculty’s contract with their employer might state that the institution owns copyright for all writings produced during employment. Therefore, we needed to be careful about copyright ownership: was it with the author or the author’s employer? (See Copyright and Open Licences.)

It’s possible that, as the primary author and publisher, you will decide to pay contributors for their work and their copyright. If this is the case, outline this condition in those contracts. A writer who is paid this way is called a write for hire.

Here are potential copyright owners participating in the creation of an open textbook.

  • Primary author
  • Primary author’s institution
  • Contributing authors
  • Photographers
  • Illustrators
  • Graphic designers or others who contribute tables, graphs, charts, etc.
  • A contributor’s institution

It is not usual practice to include copy editors and proofreaders as copyright holders. Instructional designers, who assist with the layout of a textbook but do not contribute content, are also not included.

Once you’ve established who owns copyright to specific material in the textbook, decide how you will acknowledge each creator for their work. This information should be recorded in your project timeline. (See Project Charter and Timeline.)

Talk to the copyright librarian or other intellectual property (IP) expert at your institution for additional assistance or questions on this topic. (See Copyright and Open Licences.)

Attributions

Crowd by geralt has been designated to the public domain (CC0).

License

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Who Owns Copyright? by Lauri Aesoph is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.