As soon as you write down your work, it becomes copyrighted to you — you own what you have written.
In the United States, authors of a work have the exclusive right to:
Not all of these rights pertain directly to scholarly works, but it's important to note that artistic works are protected under copyright, too.
When you are publishing your research in a scholarly journal, you will likely need to sign a contract with the publisher outlining who will control the copyrights. In some cases, the publisher may want to take all of your rights, while in true open access journals, they may only ask for the right to publish your article first. This page will teach you about what rights you have as an author and how to protect them.
SHERPA/RoMEO is a great tool for checking publishers' copyright policies and whether they allow self-archiving (i.e., depositing your work in an institutional repository like Touro Scholar). SHERPA/RoMEO uses a color-coded system to show how restrictive a journal is, with green being the least restrictive (allowing for archiving of pre-print, post-print, or the publisher's edition).
Note: These definitions come from Inefuku, Harrison W., "Pre-Print, Post-Print or Offprint? A guide to publication versions, permissions and the digital repository" (2013). Digital Repository Outreach and Workshops. 2. http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/digirep_outreach/2
Pre-Print: "The pre-print is the author’s manuscript version of the publication that has been submitted to a journal for consideration for publication. If published in a peer-reviewed publication, the pre-print does not reflect any revisions made during the peer-review process. It also does not reflect any layout or copy editing done by the publisher in preparation for publication. Because the pre-print is produced by the author, it is typically a DOC (or other word processing file format) or Tex format."
Post-Print: "The post-print is the author’s final manuscript of the publication, which is submitted to the publisher for publication. If published in a peerreviewed publication, the post-print contains all revisions made during the peer-review process. It does not, however, reflect any layout or copy editing done by the publisher in preparation for publication. As such, proofs and offprints delivered to the author from the publisher are not post-prints. Because the post-print is produced by the author, it is typically a DOC (or other word processing file format) or Tex format."
Published Version: "The published version is the final version of the article produced by the publisher. When dealing with hard-copy publications, this is the printed version found in books, proceedings and journals. In the digital environment, the published version is usually a PDF available through the publisher’s Web site or through article databases (although for some online publications, the published version may be in HTML or other file formats)."
While it is challenging to change a contract you have already signed, you can add an addendum to contracts you haven't yet signed. An addendum is a way to modify the copyright terms in your authors' agreement to make them more flexible when it comes to self-archiving and retaining ownership of your own work.
The links below provide more information about how to change a publishing contract.