Who Owns The Rights To Your Scholarship?
Originally, most scholars own their own work, but you may be asked to give away those rights during the publication process. Your choice to keep your copyright or to relinquish it to a publisher has important implications for who can read your work, as well as whether you may use it in future work or share it in class or on the web.
This story, "Publish AND Perish? Protecting your copyrights from your publisher", recounts a conversation between a professor of comparative literature at UCLA and his son, a copyright lawyer. It's a great introduction to the ideas of managing copyrights, and how authors and publishers may not always have the same interests.
- What rights do I have as an author?
You as the author or creator of an original work automatically have copyright for it, which gives exclusive control of how the work is reproduced, distributed or performed. If you transfer copyright, you no longer have control of how your work is distributed or used.
- Isn't it common practice to give away my rights?
You may be asked to sign away your copyrights, in full or in part, to the publisher as a condition of publication. It is your choice whether to comply, considering which rights are truly necessary to the publisher and which rights you want to retain.
- Why should I pay attention to author's rights?
These rights affect the potential reach and impact of your work as well as your ability to use your own work, including whether you could legally distribute copies of your article to colleagues and students.
- How can I find out what my publisher's standard author agreement allows me to do?
The author's agreement or a summary of the publisher's policies is often available on the publisher's web site or the web site for the journal (look for the Author's information section). If it's not available there, you'll need to contact the publisher directly.
- Is there an easy way to find out whether my publisher's standard author agreement allows me to post my article on my website?
A quick summary of many publishers' policies on posting (or "archiving") articles is available at the SHERPA site at http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo.php. Search on the publisher's name or the journal title to see information on
the publisher's policies. Here is a brief key to their
classification of publisher policies:
pre-print and post-print
post-print (ie final draft post-refereeing)
pre-print (ie pre-refereeing)
not formally supported
If your publisher is not in the SHERPA database, check the publisher's web site or the web site for the journal (look for the Author's information section).
- What if I plan to mount the
article on a web site that requires a
password, like my WebCT course site or my departmental website?
Am I not automatically allowed to do that?
The fact that the article will be posted on a site requiring a password is legally irrelevant.
You may still need to get permission from the publisher to use it and possibly pay a fee for its use,
depending on the author's agreement you sign.
73% of the 400+ journals for which the University of Minnesota faculty serve as editors allow authors to post some version of their papers
on their web sites. 9% disallow web site posting.
- How can I retain more of my author's rights than the publisher's standard agreement allows?
You can propose changes to the standard agreement with the publisher. As an easy tool for negotiation, you can append to the standard agreement
an addendum retaining certain rights you specify, taking advantage of the fact that copyright is a bundle of rights which need not be transferred in toto to a publisher.
This avoids the exclusive and restrictive publisher control often associated with such transfers and leaves the author with more control over how the work is used and shared.
Professor Gary Balas (Institute of Technology), Lisa Johnston (Science and Engineering Library), and Amy West (Wilson Library) have all succeeded in convincing publishers like AIAA,
Elsevier and Taylor & Francis to change their generic publishing agreements.
- Is there a preferred author addendum for University of Minnesota authors to use?
The University of Minnesota Senate has unanimously endorsed the Author's Addendum developed by the CIC (Big Ten). By signing the addendum and submitting
it with the publisher's standard agreement, U of MN authors can retain
- to use their own articles in their teaching and other
- to post their articles on their web sites or on those
maintained by the U of MN / scholarly societies / funding agencies (6
months after the date of publication)
- to grant the U of MN the right to distribute their articles
for teaching and research purposes
The addendum is thus a key tool through which authors can: a) alert
publishers that they want to maximize access to their work and wish to
abide by the University's endorsement; and, b) personally
retain a number of rights within the copyright bundle which are necessary for the
author's greatest flexibility in use of his or her own work. As noted
at the Sherpa site above, some publishers have copyright transfer
policies and publication contracts that allow open access deposit, and
the retention of some other rights. With the endorsement of this
addendum (and others like it around the world), and with direct
communication from the University to publishers informing them of the
policy, it is possible that more publishers will realize that a license
to publish -- rather than complete copyright transfer -- is all they
require, and the need for the addendum will diminish over time.
The addendum is available on the Libraries website at
- to use their own articles in their teaching and other
- I have heard about disciplinary
repositories, such as the NIH's
PubMed Central and the arXiv for physics and other sciences. How does the U of MN Author's Addendum
affect the potential for depositing my work in such places?
The addendum in no way prevents you from using such services. In
principle, making your work available through multiple open access
repositories will only further increase its impact. For a list of studies
testing this principle, see
Project: "The Effect of Open Access and Downloads ('Hits') on Citation Impact.
- What if I am a federally-funded
researcher - can I still use the U of MN Author's Addendum?
Yes. The second bullet in the Addendum makes clear that you can comply
with your grant agreement or cooperative agreement, provided that your
funding agency does not require deposit at its site until at least 6
months after publication. If your funding agency needs deposit
sooner than that, however, you can certainly adapt the wording of the
addendum to suit your specific situation.
On January 11, 2008, the National Institutes of Health announced its
Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications
Resulting from NIH-Funded Research,
placing a new reporting requirement
on NIH-funded researchers taking effect on April 7, 2008. The final,
peer-reviewed manuscripts of all articles arising from NIH-funded research
which are accepted for publication on or after April 7th will need be
submitted to PubMed Central,
NIH's digital archive of biomedical and
life sciences journal literature, where they will be freely accessible
to all so that they might better advance science and improve health.
For more information, see our guide to
NIH Public Access.
- How does the U of MN Author's Addendum
apply to papers with one or more co-authors outside of U-MN?
Each co-author shares ownership of the entire work. Each can
exercise any of the rights of the copyright owner and can transfer or
license the work. The only duty joint owners owe to each other is to
account for any profits associated with the work to the other joint
owners. As a practical matter we would
expect U of MN co-authors to check with and inform their co-authors of
the policy and of any open-access deposit of their work.
- What if the publisher says No to the U of MN Author's Addendum?
You still have a choice of action: you could negotiate fewer rights with the publisher,
or sign the standard agreement without the addendum, or investigate publishing in
another venue with policies you prefer.
We are aware of no instance in which a publisher has refused to publish
an article where the author initially sought to retain some non-exclusive rights
to the article. For more negotiating tips, see
How to Retain Ownership of Your Copyright when Dealing with
Publishers (A Very Short Guide to Negotiation), from Arizona State University
or Author Rights: Using the SPARC Author Addendum to secure your rights as the author of a journal article
- Is the U of MN Author's Addendum a
threat to the viability of non-profit scholarly society journals?
No, probably not. There is as yet no evidence
that publishing revenues are declining or at risk, even with the rapidly growing number of open access policies and amount
of publicly available scholarship. Further, the
policy contains a key provision that protects
journals and the peer review process: for those journals that do not
already allow open access to articles within six months of publication,
the policy assumes, and faculty may specifically request, a delay of up
to six months after publication and before the university places any
articles in a public repository. Immediate access continues to be
through the published journal.
In some disciplines, freely accessible online archives have proven to
be a supplement to journal readership, not a replacement for it. In
physics, for example, where nearly 100% of new articles are freely
available from birth in the arXiv open-access repository,
subscription-based journals have continued to thrive. The American
Physical Society and the Institute of Physics Publishing are unable to
identify any subscriptions lost as a result of arXiv in more than a decade of
its existence [see Swan, A. (2005) Open
access self-archiving: An Introduction. Technical Report, JISC, HEFCE.].
- Is there anywhere I can share
my work where I would always
retain all rights to reuse it?
You could deposit your work in the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
which provides long-term preservation and access services for the intellectual
and creative output of the University's academic, research, and administrative communities.
You as an author retain copyright to your submissions and are free to reuse your works elsewhere.
Contributing works to the Conservancy does not transfer intellectual property rights.
For more information, see the UDC's Copyright
Policy and Deposit Agreements page.
- Where can I go to find more
information on copyright policies at the U of MN?
Some of this information is provided courtesy of University of California's Office of Scholarly Communication,
UC-Davis's Health Sciences Libraries, Indiana University's Copyright Initiatives, and University of North Carolina Libraries