Authors who publish articles in scholarly/peer-reviewed journals may be required to sign away copyright to their scholarly works, either in full or part, when signing the Copyright Transfer Agreement. With this transfer, authors often lose the rights to reproduce, distribute or copy their own works without permissions from publishers. The publishers, in turn, sell licenses to these works back to authors' institutions/libraries for exorbitant prices.
By retaining control of copyright, authors would take control of their scholarly works.
Signing copyright agreements with publishers does not have to be an all or nothing deal. Authors have the option to negotiate with publishers in order to retain copyright to their works. Authors can either:
If publishers are unwilling to negotiate their copyright transfer agreements, authors have the option to:
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
As the copyright owner, you are granted these six fundamental rights:
To reproduce the copyrighted work
To prepare derivative works
To distribute copies of the work
To perform the work publicly
To display the work publicly
To perform the work publicly by digital transmission
(Quoted from Authors Rights, SPARC)
Per the Copyright Office, "your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created. . . . Registration is voluntary and recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law."
The Copyright Office makes it easy for authors to register copyright on their own works. Their website contains useful information, including what can be copyrighted, a listing of current fees, and updated FAQs.
The Copyright Office offers an online copyright filing interface, that both lowers your filing cost and speeds up registration times.