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Scholarly Communication: Author Rights

A guide to issues in scholarly communication, including publishing, open access, copyright, author rights, and digital archiving.

Introduction

When your article is reviewed and accepted for publication, you are asked to sign a standard agreement that transfers most, or all of your rights to the publisher. This means that you are no longer the copyright holder for your work. Depending on your contract with the publisher, your attempts to share your own work with colleagues and students, in print or electronic formats, may be infringing.

You as the author have the following rights unless and until you transfer the copyright in a signed agreement:

  • The exclusive rights of reproduction
  • Distribution
  • Public performance
  • Public display
  • Modification of the original work

Decisions concerning use of the work such as distribution, access, pricing, updates, and any use restrictions belong to the copyright holder. Authors who have transferred their copyright without retaining any rights may not be able to place the work on course websites, copy it for students or colleagues, deposit the work in a public online archive, or reuse portions in a subsequent work. That's why it is important to retain the rights you need. Transferring copyright doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can transfer copyright while holding back rights for yourself and others.

Most faculty are interested in maintaining the right to use and develop their own work without restriction, including using it for teaching and derivative research, receive proper attribution, and the ability to archive their work.

Publishers are mostly interested in obtaining a non-exclusive right to publish and distribute a work to receive a financial return. Publishers receive proper attribution and citation as the place of first publication and the ability to migrate the work to future formats and include it in collections.

For more information about how you can retain your rights, visit the "Negotiating Guide" tab.

Copyright Library Guide

A right granted by Federal law, copyright protection is provided to published and unpublished works. Copyright automatically applies once the creator fixes a work in a tangible form. As a author, you retain your copyright protections unless you transfer your rights to another party, such as a publisher, through a written agreement.

Copyright is a complex enough topic for its own Library Guide. This guide covers:

Creative Commons

Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright and the public domain, from all rights reserved to no rights reserved. Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright, so you can modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

Before creating a customizable license for your work consider the available options. Use the Creative Commons online tool to customize your license.

Know Your Rights: Who Really Owns Your Scholarly Works?

In this panel discussion, experts on copyright law and scholarly publishing discuss how scholars and researchers can take full advantage of opportunities afforded by digital technology in today's legal environment and suggest ways to advocate for positive change. 

Author Rights Explained

This brief video, produced by the Institute on Scholarly Communication in association with SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), explains how researchers can maximize exposure and dissemination for their peer-reviewed article manuscripts.

Retain Your Copyright

According to the law, copyright is granted to authors upon expressing their ideas in a "tangible form", even if it is an unpublished manuscript; no registration is needed to become the legitimate copyright holder of your own work. As the author, you have the exclusive right to copy, distribute or perform your work, unless you give your permission to others to do so. In fact, in order to publish your article, all the publisher needs is your permission, yet standard publisher agreements transfer all your rights to the publisher. You don't have to accept it, as the owner of your own intellectual property.

ASU Library, together with a contract specialist, offer you a toolkit to negotiate with your publisher and retain some of your rights. The Negotiating Guide takes you step by step through a typical negotiating process using clear, everyday language. If a publisher is not willing to make alterations to their contract, you may want to attach an addendum that reserves rights essential to scholars in the university environment. Science Commons has an addendum engine to easily generate a customized addendum to meet your needs, or we have provided a simple addendum you could use.

Subject Guide

Anali Perry's picture
Anali Perry
Subjects: Copyright, Scholarly Communication, Digital Repositories, Scholarly Publishing, Impact & Metrics, Open Access and Open Education.
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Publication Agreements

Attaching an addendum to the publisher agreement is an easy method for authors to use to selectively retain control of their work. Here are some templates and online tools that can generate a personalized addendum.

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