Handling Copyright of Your Research Work

The copyright of your research work created during the employment at this University or with the use of the University equipment, facilities or other resources belongs to CUHK. However, the University will not assert ownership of certain intellectual property of scholarly work under certain conditions. Please refer to the CUHK Policy on Intellectual Property (para 5.2) for details on the special arrangements of scholarly work.

Copyright Notice

Although copyright is automatic, you are advised to provide a copyright notice in the following format so that others intended to use your work can easily identify you as the copyright owner.
© [your name as the copyright owner] [year of publication]. All rights reserved. (example: ©xxx 2010. All rights reserved.)

Creative Commons (CC) Licenses

Alternatively, if you would like to share your research work with others for use in fewer restrictions than the current Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528), you are encouraged to license your work using a Creative Commons license. According to the website of Creative Commons, the current copyright law that was created long before the emergence of the Internet has laid down restrictive rules that stifle the use of your work on the network that we take for granted such as copy, paste, edit source and post to the web. Creative Commons is “a free, public, and standardized infrastructure that creates a balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws.” Under this scheme, an author can choose amongst 6 different CC licenses to indicate under what conditions people can use their works. For instance, you can include attribution, non-commercial / commercial use and share alike, which means that using your work requires acknowledging you as the author, restricting to either non-commercial or commercial purposes and allowing remix of your content.

The following are two most popular CC licenses:

  • Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)

attribution-noncommercial CC license

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

attribution-noncommercial-sharealike CC license

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

CC licenses are not alternative to copyright; they work alongside with copyright and its use complies with the Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528) of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is one of the international jurisdictions that support and promote CC activities around the world (Creative Commons Licences – Points to Note). They can also be applied to print publications.

Using Third Party Copyrighted Material

In some circumstances, you will need to use third party copyrighted material in your own research. Under the provisions of the current Copyright Ordinance of Hong Kong, fair dealing for research and private study, staff and students in educational establishments are permitted to use an insubstantial portion of copyrighted materials as long as the use complies with all the conditions that determine whether the dealing with a work is fair. Please refer to copyright exemption – fair dealing for details.

If the fair dealing exemption for research & private study is not applicable such as when you want to publish your research work, and you still wish to use third party copyrighted material, you need to:

  • Seek permission from the copyright holder – Even when using your own content, for example an article written by you, if published copyright will probably have been assigned to the publisher who may or may not allow the work to be used in another work, or
  • Use material already available under a Creative Commons licenses, or
  • Use material whose copyright has expired – In general, copyright expires at the end of the period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. After expiry of copyright, the work can be treated as material in a public domain. Different types of work are subject to different copyright duration. Please refer to the Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528, Section 17) for details.

Fair Dealing for Other Purposes

In Hong Kong, fair dealing is not just confined to the purpose of research and private study (Section 38). There are other permitted acts that will not constitute copyright infringement when using copyright works. They are:


Any use of copyrighted material beyond the above prescribed purposes such as for commercial use will not be considered as fair. Please also note that the conditions that determine whether the dealing with a work is fair dealing still apply. Please refer to copyright exemption – fair dealing for details.

Publishing Your Research Work

Author’s Rights

Under the current provisions of the Copyright Ordinance of Hong Kong, in normal circumstances, the author of a work is the first owner of any copyright in it. Though the University retains the copyright for a work that is created by its staff during the course of his / her employment in the University, staff member as the author of the work obtains non-exclusive rights to use the work. In addition to the basic rights protected by the Copyright Ordinance, you also have the following author’s rights:

  1. To use the work for instructional purposes
  2. To post the work on your web site
  3. To post the work in an open access repository
  4. To reproduce the work
  5. To authorize others to exercise any of these rights

Authors retain their exclusive rights on their work until they sign an agreement that transfers some or all of these exclusive rights. Once transferred, it is hard to exercise the rights again. This is usually the case when you intend to publish your research work with a publisher and are requested to sign a publishing agreement that governs how copyright of the work is licensed or assigned. If you do not read the terms of the agreement carefully, you may transfer all your own copyright to a publisher without noticing it. This will limit your ability to use or share your work with others and you need to seek permission from the publisher for a specific use of your own work. Each publisher has its own publishing agreement with unique terms. You can refer to its author guidelines for details. However, it is not easy to distill in details what these entail and how they impact on your own copyright. In general, a standard publishing agreement will assign the full copyright to the publisher; some may require specific rights only such as the license to publish; some may allow the authors to retain certain copyright such as re-using the paper in future printed work, or depositing the paper in institutional repositories. You are always encouraged to retain the copyright in your own work and do not transfer such rights that is more than is needed to a publisher. The following are some strategies you can use if you do not want to transfer your copyright to a publisher or not satisfied with the terms in the publishing agreement:

  1. Use author addendum to negotiate with the publisher to retain author’s rights to your work – While most publishers may request you to sign a standard publishing agreement, you can use an author addendum to negotiate with the publisher whether you will be allowed to retain some rights to your work such as using it in teaching and research. One such addendum you can use is The SPARC Author Addendum that is developed by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and it serves to modify the publisher’s agreement and assign to the publisher only those rights needed for publication. Another one is Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine. Some universities prepare their own author addenda for use by their community.
  2. Use open access publishing agreement such as Creative Common licenses.
  3. Choose to publish in open access journals that allow authors to retain their copyright – Open access journals are journals that are freely available on the Internet, and many, but not all, have liberal policies that allow author to retain their copyright. Please refer to Directory of Open Access Journals to identify a suitable journal for your work.
  4. Check whether the terms in publishing agreement contravenes with the requirement of the funding bodies – Many international funding bodies have open access policies that require their funded research work to be freely available to the public in order to maximize the dissemination of the research they fund. Please refer to SHERPA/Juliet to find out the open access policies of major funders. Please make sure you retain the right to self-archive your publication in open access repository should this is required by the funder.

Third Party Copyrighted Material

Fair dealing shall not apply when you submit your work for publication. You must seek permission from the copyright holder for any third party copyrighted material contains in your work.


Self-Archiving Your Publications in Open Access Institutional Repositories (CUHK Research Portal)

In the worldwide open access movement, you may choose to self-archive your publication in institutional repository that is open access to allow sharing your work with the global research community. The new University’s Research Portal (AIMS) is such an open access institutional repository to allow you to deposit your research outputs.

There is a growing trend for publishers to allow depositing their publications in the author’s institutional repositories such as CUHK Research Portal. To check for the publishers’ copyright and self-archiving policies, please use this web site SHERPA/RoMEO that is developed by JISC and hosted by the University of Nottingham to provide updated information on the conditions/restrictions imposed by a publisher to allow the author to archive their publications in institutional repository. In general, an author is allowed to self-archive his / her publications in the following three versions: 1) pre-print that has not been peer-reviewed; 2) post-print that has been peer-reviewed; 3) publisher’s published version.

The Library is aware that faculty and researchers of the University have concerns on copyright and which version of their publications should be archived. The Library will investigate thoroughly the copyright and self-archiving policies of publishers. You are also welcome to contact should you have any enquiries.