Astrid Bovell on April 26th, 2013
From time to time we get phone calls from lecturers and students asking us about what they can and can’t do with a research paper they’ve previously created. Questions like this prompt two questions from us:
1) Was the research funded or commissioned?
2) Have you already published this paper somewhere?
Asking whether the research was funded or commissioned is really important. If your research has been funded by an organisation or commissioned by a company, it’s likely that you signed a contract and that somewhere in that contract it specifies with the research you produce is owned by the organisation/company or whether you as the researcher maintain copyright in your work and what rights you have to it. Similarly, when you publish your research, it’s also likely that you have signed a contract with the publisher that will also outline the copyright ownership and what rights you have.
It’s crucial when you are presented with these contracts that you read and understand what you’re agreeing to, so that you know what you can and can’t do with the research you’ve conducted and papers you’ve written. It’s also important to hold on to those agreements so that you can review them later and remind yourself what you’ve agreed to. Unfortunately we find that in most of the calls we receive about this, most researchers have no idea what they agreed to and have no idea where the contract is.
Knowing your rights is important to ensure that you can confidently move forward with taking action if you see your work being infringed, or can refrain from falsely accusing someone of using your work without the right to.
Here’s an interesting article pertinent to this issue that I came across earlier this month. It’s about a PhD student who noticed his work being published under someone else’s name…