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Copyright Awareness for Teaching, Learning and Research

Copyright in Publishing

You may encounter copyright issues as you publish your work such as: 

  • Protecting your copyright
  • Re-Using the copyrighted works of others. 

This page contains information to guide you on some of your options. 

For more information on Scholarly Communications and Publishing, please refer to the Library Guide on Scholarly Communications.

Retaining Your Rights as an Author

Do You Own Copyright?

Depending on the terms governing your research, copyright in your research manuscript might be owned by you, by NUS, or by the body funding your research.

You are ... Governing Terms  Who Owns Copyright Before Publication?

an NUS Student 

NUS IP Policy Clause F(3); 
Singapore Copyright Act 

You own the copyright in your academic thesis and dissertations but you may not own: 

  • patentable ideas 
  • research data arising from university research

an NUS Employee

NUS IP Policy Clause F(2); and the terms of your employment contract

You may not own copyright in the manuscript in these situations:

  • You are a non-academic staff, and the  manuscript was created in pursuance of the terms of your employment with NUS. In this case NUS owns copyright (Clause F(2)(a)(i), NUS IP Policy)
  • The manuscript was commissioned by the University or was created at the direction of the university for a specific university purpose. In this case NUS owns copyright (Clause F(2)(a)(ii), NUS IP Policy).  
  • The manuscript was written pursuant to a specific agreement between the university and you/another institution or entity, in which case ownership depends on the terms of the agreement (Clause F(2)(b), NUS IP Policy)
  • The manuscript was written pursuant to a grant or third party contract. In this case, you, NUS, or the body funding your research, may also own the copyright. It depends on the terms of the grant or contract (Clause F(2)(c), NUS IP Policy).

You own copyright in the manuscript if none of the above situations describe yours.

If you own the copyright, it means that you have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display and modify your manuscript.

Overview of Author-Publisher Agreement

When publishing your manuscript, you will have to sign an Author-Publisher agreement. 

The Author-Publisher agreement may have different permutations. 

We list below examples from most to least restrictive of Author rights: 

  • Copyright transfer agreement from Author to Publisher;
    • The traditional Author-Publisher agreement requires you transfer ownership of copyrights to the publisher. It also likely prohibits self-archiving i.e. depositing a free copy of your manuscript online in order to provide open access to it. This means you might lose your right to the subsequent use of your manuscript.
  • Exclusive licence from Author to Publisher 
    • The author retains copyright to the work, but grants the publisher exclusive rights to exploit the rights commercially. This means the author is not allowed to publish the work with another publisher.
  • Non-Exclusive license from Author to Publisher
    • The author retains copyright to the work, and is allowed to publish the work with other publishers, often with qualifications.

Retaining Your Rights

Are there options that will allow you to retain your rights?

The answer is yes. Here are your options.

  • Work with a publisher with self-archiving friendly agreements
  • Modify the Author-Publisher agreement to allow you to retain certain rights
  • Use an alternative agreement such Creative Commons or other models of open access publishing
Options What might be helpful? How will it help?

Check if a publisher has self-archiving friendly agreements

Sherpa Romeo

Publishers have different policies regarding self-archiving and use of your published manuscript.

The Sherpa Romeo database allows you to check publishers’ policies on copyright and self-archiving. Before submitting your manuscript to a publisher, you may want to check this database to determine how you can use your manuscript before and after publication. For instance, you can find out whether the publisher allows you to upload your manuscript in a pre-print and/or post-print version in an open access repository such as ScholarBank@NUS.

Modify the publication agreement to allow you to retain certain rights


In most Author-Publisher agreements, copyright is vested in the publisher rather than the author. A restrictive Author-Publisher agreement would limit access to your manuscript if you wish to archive your publications online.

SPARC in partnership with Creative Commons has produced a legal instrument known as the SPARC Author Addendum. The addendum modifies the traditional publisher agreement to allow you to retain the right to self-archive your manuscript in an institutional repository. For more information on the SPARC Author Addendum and how to use it, please see here

SPARC is based on US law and drafted by US lawyers, so it might not be fully applicable to the local context. For detailed advice on this, please approach the NUS Office of Legal Affairs. 

Use an alternative agreement or publish in an open access journal that uses creative commons licenses Creative Commons

You might wish to seek options to incorporate different licensing arrangements to govern the publication of your article.

Creative Commons licenses can be used to provide you with the ability to deal with your manuscript after publication. You might wish to seek OLA’s advice to incorporate the Creative Commons licensing arrangement into the traditional Author-Publisher agreement.

You might also wish to publish in a journal which implements Creative Commons licenses.

Example of a license which incorporates creative commons here.

Re-Using Published Materials

Sometimes, you may wish to re-use material from other scholarly works, such as figures or diagrams.

The Author-Publisher agreement will require you to guarantee that all third party copyrighted works in your manuscript have been used with proper permission from the copyright owner.

Whether you can re-use the copyrighted work depends on the license applied to the scholarly work.

Publications can be divided up into two broad categories:

Creative Commons Licensed Work Non-Creative Commons Licensed Work

You might be able to re-use the work without seeking permission if the author has distributed the scholarly work under certain Creative Commons licenses.

Please check that you are able to comply with the terms of the Creative Commons license.  

Always provide proper attribution and/or acknowledgement when using Creative Commons licensed works.

Necessary to seek permission from the publisher/journal.

Publishers may have copyright clearance systems and policies that allow users to request for permissions, such as:

If no copyright clearance system exists, contact the copyright owner directly following these steps.

For more tips on searching for re-usable content, please refer to the search tips here.