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Scholarly Communication

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


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.

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to the law, copyright is granted to authors upon expressing their ideas in a "tangible form", even if it is an unpublished manuscript; no registration is needed to become the legitimate copyright holder of your own work.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.

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.

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.

The ASU Library acknowledges the twenty-three Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries. Arizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. ASU Library acknowledges the sovereignty of these nations and seeks to foster an environment of success and possibility for Native American students and patrons. We are advocates for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies within contemporary library practice. ASU Library welcomes members of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh, and all Native nations to the Library.