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Researcher's guide to responsible and open science

Copyright in a nutshell

Researchers need a basic understanding of copyright, for example when writing a research paper or signing a publishing agreement.

Under Finnish law, the creator of a literary or artistic work is legally entitled to copyright in the work. Copyright includes economic and moral rights. Authors may assign their rights, in whole or in part, to another person or organisation, typically a publisher in the case of publications. The financial compensation and other terms of copyright assignment are usually agreed in a written contract.

What this means in practice is that for example once the commercial rights to a work have been transferred to the publisher, the authors can no longer continue to use the work in commercial contexts (e.g. sharing a research article on a social media service). Although the right to be credited as author always remains, it does not mean that the work as a commodity necessarily belongs to the author themselves.

Figure demonstrates that copyright can be divided into economic rights which iclude the right of reproduction of the work and making a work available to the public; and into moral rights which include the right to authorship and the right to the integrity of the work.

Figure 1: adapted from Kopiosto

Worth remembering

  • A copyrighted work can also be created as a collaboration. An example of this is an article written by several authors, or an edited volume compiled by several editors. In these cases, the creators must agree on the use or for example licencing of the work.
  • The protection granted by copyright is not affected by the intended use, quality, technology, or material of the work. For example, releasing an image online does not mean it is not protected by copyright.
  • Publishing your own research results multiple times, also known as self-plagiarism, is not only against good research ethics, but can also be a copyright infringement.
  • There are some legal limitations to the creator’s exclusive rights to decide how their work is used. For example, users are permitted to create some copies of the work for private use, and the work can be cited in reviews and academic papers.

What is an original work?

Original work can be either a literary or artistic creation that is independent and original in relation to other existing creations. A literary work can be for example an article, a map, an explanatory drawing, a graphic presentation, or a computer program.

The following are not usually seen as original works: ordinary photographs, catalogues, and databases. Despite of this, these works have their own, separately defined copyright period that is based on so called related rights.

Find more information about copyright from the websites of Kopiosto and the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Creative Commons licences

Open access publications usually have an open licence applied to them. A Creative Commons licence lets you define the permitted ways your work can be used by others. Except for the CC0 licence, an open licence does not mean that your work can be used freely without any restrictions. It is still protected by copyright, and the conditions have been defined by the copyright holders (e.g. the authors of the publication or the publisher) according to the type of licence they have chosen.

CC licences are standardised and used globally in the field of academic publishing.

The Creative Commons website has a tool that helps with the choosing of a licence, and you can also contact the Library for advice at

Agreeing on authorship

In terms of research ethics, the concept of authorship is more comprehensive than in copyright law. Any author or contributor who has contributed in a significant way to the creation of the research publication should be named as an author. The contribution can be other than writing, which is something that is easily forgotten when discussing authorship. With authorship there also comes responsibility for the contents and results of the research.

Academic research and publications are usually collaborations, so it is not always obvious who the authors are, and in what order they should be mentioned. The different branches of science also have their own preferred practices. This can lead to disputes over authorship.

The Finnish National Board on Research Integrity (TENK) advises in their publication Agreeing on authorship: Recommendation for research publications that the principles of authorship should be discussed and agreed upon (preferably in writing) even before publication. The recommendation also holds tools for defining authorship.


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