Do I own my article if I was not compensated by publishers?


I have been writing for a long time and my work has been published across many websites. But one thing that remained common is that I was never compensated by any of these websites anytime. Now, do I own my work and can publish it on my own websites. I give credit to original publisher for courtesy.

I just want to collect all my work under one domain so that I can prepare a profile for my self.

Please guide me if this is an infringement to the copyright policies?


asked Oct 8 '11 at 03:33
Prashant Shrivastava
26 points
  • How other sites publish you work, do they own the published material. In other words do you write content for money and sell it? – Ross 12 years ago
  • What was the deal when your articles were published on those sites? There has to be some kind of understanding. That's the first thing to look at. Copyright law in the US is complex. – Alain Raynaud 12 years ago

5 Answers


Whenever I create an unpaid article I treat it as a shared copyright meaning that I can do whatever I want with it and so can the publication. I've never had any trouble with that before.

answered Apr 24 '12 at 01:23
Mike Moyer
284 points


If you were me I would not be worried unless I signed something that gave up my rights to work that is on the site or if I were paid for it. If they just used an article on their site because they liked it I would consider those pieces my work and go on my merry way without being worried that I was doing something that could get me sued or thrown in jail. They aren't going to try to come after you without a paper trail because you said you wrote what you actually did write. Just make sure that there isn't some hidden disclaimer that revokes your rights as soon as you register or something like that.

If you are still worried then rewrite the articles so that they pass a duplicate copy checker. Then you will be sure to be in the clear.

answered Aug 4 '12 at 14:48
72 points


In my opinion, it depends on the type of article. For example, I write academic articles for journals, am not paid, and whether I literally own the article or not, I do not have the right to sell or reproduce it. There is copyright law and there are specific guidelines to journals and content sites regarding the percentage of the article that can be published elsewhere. It's often 10%. That said, you have the right to use ideas from the article, as long as you expand on them (either by time, generalizability, or context) and cite the original article. This is common when you give a presentation at a conference (be it academic or business) and then expand that presentation to a book, article, etc. by adding applied examples, a different methodology, additional theory, etc. The idea is: that all articles promote your interpretation and work, whether paid or not; that the publisher has the right to expect the article will not appear elsewhere except as a citation; and that you will continue to have future ideas related to the topic and opportunities that evolve because of that publication.

answered Dec 20 '11 at 03:32
Kelly Cooper
88 points
  • Correct, but usually you have to sign something when you publish an article in an academic journal, for the specific paper to transfer copyright to them. – Alain Raynaud 12 years ago


Only a bit more to add to what's already been said. I recommend that you monitor the websites where your older work resides. If ever you find that the URL is changed without a 301 redirect, or of you find they pull the content for some reason, reach out to the owners of those pages that have linked to that content, and tell them that as the author, you're now hosting that content on your own site. They will usually be more than happy to alter the old URL which was pointing to a 404 error, to the original author's site.

I would recommend creating followup articles for all of the original posts, excerpting and referencing those original web pages. That would reinforce your authorship, show a positive attitude towards the original publishers, and can only help you get your older work discovered.

answered May 24 '12 at 02:24
Brian Crouch
11 points


This really, really comes down to the contract under which the articles were submitted. I've worked for several niche periodical publishers - both online and hardcopy - and have seen all kinds of terms:

  • the publisher "bought" the article from the author, who retains no rights to it
  • the publisher has exclusive right of publication (a subtle but occasionally important difference from the previous terms)
  • the publisher has exclusive right of publication, unless it doesn't get published and/or the author isn't paid, at which time the rights revert to the author
  • the publisher has exclusive right of publication in one or more specific media (for example, only they can publish it online, but the author could put it in a print book)
  • the publisher has right of first publication (and the author can freely republish it after some time period has elapsed)
  • and so on.

If you don't have contracts for your articles, ask the publisher(s) for a copy of the terms in effect at the time your articles were submitted. If they can't provide the terms, talk to a lawyer about the default conditions for your locality.

For any future articles, get a contract. Boilerplate article contracts are - as legal documents go - short, simple, and cheap to get drawn up (since the publisher really just gets one contract written and then plays fill-in-the-blank for each article they accept), so there really isn't any good reason for a publisher to not have one.

Also, I'm assuming that by "profile", you mean an online site that anyone could visit to see your work. If, however, we were talking about something more like a hard copy CV - say, print outs of your articles in a binder you could hand to a prospective employer - that falls under fair use.

answered Apr 18 '12 at 20:19
111 points

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