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Scholarly Communication

Publishing, Disseminating and Discovering your Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities

Author Rights

All authors, whether they are a faculty member publishing a monograph, a grant funded researcher publishing a scholarly article, or a graduate student writing a dissertation, need to be familiar with the basic concepts of copyright and have an awareness of the options for publishing, posting, archiving and distributing their scholarship.  A work automatically has copyright as soon as you have  written it down.  Licensing agreements, such as publishing contracts, can severely limit how you can use your own work. 
When publishing, you are presented with a contract or copyright transfer agreement drafted by the publisher. Many of these publisher drafted agreements transfer copyright fully to the publisher thereby restricting your subsequent usage of your published work, including reuse of the work in teaching and further research.  After transferring copyright to the publisher, you generally have little say in how the work is later used. The result, all too often, is that contracts restrict the dissemination of one’s scholarship, and your impact is lessened. 
Accordingly, you should take care to assign the rights to your work in a manner that permits you and your students and colleagues to use your work in teaching, research and other purposes. Transferring copyright doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Publishers only need the right of first publication, not a wholesale transfer of copyright. So, a compromise is often desirable, which you the author can accomplish through an appropriate addendum.
What is an author addendum? 

According to SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), an author addendum "is a legal instrument that you can use to modify your copyright transfer agreements with non-open access journal publishers.  It allows you to select which individual rights out of the bundle of copyrights you want to keep, such as distributing copies in the course of teaching and research, posting the article on a personal or institutional Web site or creating derivative works." 

See the links below for tools and tips on working to preserve author rights. 

Author Rights Tools

Author's Rights - General Resources

Author's Rights - Addenda for Publisher Contracts


SHERPA/RoMEO collects information about publisher policies related to online sharing (“archiving”) of works published in most journals. Journals and publishers are classified according to a color scheme that relate to the archive rights that authors retain. Authors are encouraged to research the policies of journals they have published in or are considering submitting a manuscript to in order to ascertain what rights in that work they will retain. Authors who wish to publish a copy of their articles will want to look for journals classified as green or blue, then check on any additional restrictions.

Version of Record

Publishers often make distinctions between three primary versions of a paper when referring to the archiving or deposit rights retained by authors.  Here are a few common definitions that you may find when looking into your rights as an author.    

Preprint – A preprint is the original version of the manuscript as it is submitted to a journal. While the authors may have sought help from their colleagues in selecting data analysis techniques, improving manuscript clarity, and correcting grammar, a preprint version has usually not been through a formal process of peer review. A paper will typically look like a double spaced document with minimal or plain formatting.  Some publishers will use the term Author’s Original Manuscript when referring to a preprint version. 

Postprint – A postprint is a paper that has been through the peer review process and the author has incorporated reviewers’ comments into a new version.  It is the final version of the paper before it is sent off to the journal for final publication, but it will not be formatted to look like the journal. It may still look like a double spaced document.  Some publishers will use the term Author’s Accepted Manuscript to refer to a postprint version.  Often, publishers will place restrictions or embargos on placing postprint versions in an institutional or subject repository.  They may also place required statements that you will need to add to the place where you place your postprint. 

Publisher’s version/Publisher’s PDF/Published Article – This is the formal, published version of a paper.  It will be formatted differently from a plain document as it has been professionally typeset by the publisher.  Library databases will usually link to this version of the paper.

Publishers are more likely to allow authors the right to post copies online of preprint versions of a paper. Each journal or publisher, however, has different rules and restrictions, and authors need to be aware of what they can do before posting a copy of a paper online or sharing copies with colleagues.  Ask your publisher what rights you have as an author.  In addition to checking on the publisher’s homepage, you can also look up a journal’s open access or archiving policies in Sherpa Romeo.

Creative Commons Licenses

The Creative Commons organization was founded in 2001 as a means of permitting creators to license their work for public use under conditions they specify. Although not an alternative to copyright, Creative Commons licenses permit the holders of copyright to define more clearly, than perhaps modern copyright law interpretation allows, how their works may be used and give users of copyrighted works greater creative freedom when they know, without question, how copyrighted works can be incorporated into new creations.

There are six types of licenses and two types of licenses indicating works in the public domain.  The six licenses are available at: and information about the public domain marks is available at:  To learn more on Creative Commons, please check out our Guide Here


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License