When you create something, you want the credit for your work. On the other hand when you use someone else’s work, it’s only fair to give credit to the creator(s). It’s important that you know exactly how to do this correctly, and it’s also important to know how to protect your own published work.

Copyright was not created to make your research more difficult, but to protect your rights as an (potential) author!
It is the right:

  • to be credited for an original work.
    This right is not transferable and lasts forever!
  • to adapt, use, copy or sell an original work.
    This right can be wholly or partly transferred (e.g. to a publisher), sold or inherited. In the Netherlands it lasts for 70 years after the creator’s death.

How to obtain and keep copyright

  • You do not have to do anything to obtain copyright, such as a registering process or putting a copyright symbol (©) or statement in your work. It must be clear that you wrote or produced the work yourself.
  • Publishers may ask you to sign a copyright transfer agreement before your work will be published. Negotiate about the possibilities, for instance the right to reuse your article for inclusion in a book or to file the article in a repository. On the SHERPA/RoMEO website and/or the journal’s website you can check the copyright and self-archiving policies of a journal or publisher.

Quiz: test your knowledge

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Using copyrighted work

When using someone else’s work work follow these rules:

  • Cite or paraphrase text from articles, books, papers, websites, lectures and e-mails correctly. See module How to cite to learn how to do this.
  • Attribute copyrighted work in the manner specified by the creator of the work. In many works this is clearly mentioned. In some cases you will need to contact the creator to ask permission to use or reuse the work.

If a work is in the public domain (from 70 years after the death of the maker of a work), you don’t have to ask for permission but you have to mention that it belongs to “the public domain”.

For example

Figure 2: [Voormalig stadhuis aan het Stadhuisplein te Batavia]. From “Digital Collections Leiden University Libraries,” ca. 1895 ( In the public domain.

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Share your work with Creative Commons

When you want to publish Open Access Creative Commons (CC) helps you legally share your work. CC provides free copyright licenses to give the public permission to share, use or remix your work on conditions of your choice.
CC provides two options to help you choose the right license.
The first option is a ‘License Chooser’. By answering a few questions you will receive a piece of HTML code that the creators of works, their users, and the Web itself can understand. On the CC website you can find information about the licensing possibilities.

This table summarizes the main licenses

License    Symbol Description
By attribution You may copy, distribute or remix the work as long as you give the author the credits.
Non-Commercial You may use the work for non-commercial purpose only.
Share Alike You may only distribute the work under the same Creative Commons license.
No Derivative You may not alter, transform, build upon or, remix the work without permission.



Creative Commons license from this TUlib website by TU Delft Library Flickr picture by TU Delft Library taken by Iliana Kudus Flickr picture taken by Douglas Johnston (linked to his profile page)

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The second option is to adopt a license by sharing your work on a platform that works with CC licenses. They have built-in CC options so you can mark your work with a CC license through their account settings. The benefit is that it allows other people to find your work when searching on those platforms for CC-licensed material.

These are platforms that work with CC licenses

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Use & remix CC-licensed work

Millions of people have made their work available online with the CC licenses. The creators gave their permission so you can use it as long as you follow their license conditions. Attribution is the most important one of these conditions. How you attribute authors of CC works will depend on whether you modify the content, if you create a derivative, if there are multiple sources, etc.

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Creative Commons. (2018, July 9). Best practices for attribution

Lee, C. (2016, January 21). Navigation copyright for reproduced images: Part 1. Understanding copyright status.

Lee, C. (2016, January 22). Navigation copyright for reproduced images: Part 2. Determining  whether permission is needed.

Lee, C. (2016, January 25). Navigation copyright for reproduced images: Part 3. Securing permission.