For the purposes of copyright law, an author is anyone who creates original expression, like a book, journal article, computer software, artwork, etc. The creator of the expression is the Author and holds the copyright from the moment of creation.
As the Author of a work you are the copyright holder unless you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement.
Copyright is the exclusive rights of the creator or copyright holder:
The right to make copies of a protected work (e.g. as photocopies or online)
The right to sell or distribute copies of the work to the public
Prepare Derivative Works or Adaptations
The right to create adaptations (called derivative works), meaning the right to prepare new works based on the protected work
Display or Perform the Work Publicly
The rights to perform a protected work or to display a work in public
Authorize Others to Exercise Any of These Rights
This allows the copyright owner to be flexible if wanting commercial gain from the underlying work; the owner may sell or license any of the rights. If doing so, authors are typically asked to sign legally binding contracts such as a publication agreement or a copyright transfer agreement, which usually transfers ownership of copyright to the publisher.
(By transferring your rights to a publisher, you will lose some or all of the above rights.)
Scholars who sign away all rights still can utilize their work under the "fair use" provisions in copyright law, just like any other user.
As an author, you are the copyright holder unless you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement. You do not have to transfer all your rights! If you do so, you will have to request permission to:
The law allows you to transfer copyright while holding back rights. You can unbundle the rights within the copyright bundle and transfer some of them to publishers. So, if the publisher's agreement does not give you the rights that you want, suggest changes by using the below addendums
Traditionally, authors have transferred the copyrights of their work to publishers to get their work in the printed literature. The SPARC Author Addendum is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher's agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles.