Initially the author(s)/creator(s) own the copyright to their work, however many publishers ask the author/creator to sign over most or all their rights to them.
As an author, you can retain rights to your work, but you have to negotiate with the publishers when the materials are submitted or accepted for publication.
Many Duke faculty publications, especially older works, are not owned by the author.
In some cases the institution may own the work, if an employee (not a faculty member) did the work as part of their job. This is called "work for hire" so often manuals, Web pages, etc. are owned by the institution and not the individual creator.
What are author's rights under the law?
Under the law, copyright holders are given the following exclusive rights, which means that others cannot use these rights without seeking permission:
to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies (including, typically, electronic copies)
to import or export the work
to create derivative works (works that adapt the original work)
to perform or display the work publicly
to sell or assign these rights to others
to transmit or display by radio or video
Authors can give up their rights and often do to publishers who then become the copyright holder. Unless the author retains certain rights, they cannot distribute or even post a PDF or copy of their work without seeking permission from the publisher.
Retaining Author's Rights
How can I share my work but keep control of it?
Negotiate with publishers for the right to post and share copies of your work -- see the SPARC guide for authors listed below in Additional Resources on how to do this
Choose an Open Access publication which provides everyone with immediate and free access to your work -- there is a list of OA journals that may help
Make your work available through a Creative Commons license, which is an alternative to copyright and its restrictions
This online resource aggregates and analyses publisher open access policies from around the world and provides summaries of self-archiving permissions and conditions of rights given to authors on a journal-by-journal basis. Use this as a tool when negotiating to retain your rights and reviewing your rights for previously published articles.
This is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles. The Author Addendum is a free resource developed by SPARC in partnership with Creative Commons and Science Commons. The SPARC website also includes more resources for supporting Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education.
It is not necessary to register your work to own the copyright, however it can be helpful especially when pursuing copyright infringement cases. This website includes information about the process for registering your work.