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Copyright for Authors & Creators

Publication Agreements

decorative imageA publication agreement is a legal contract between an author and a publisher. Among other things, it determines:

  • the copyright owner (an agreement may transfer ownership from author to publisher)
  • rights to be retained by the author (if the publisher becomes the copyright owner, the agreement can still grant the author certain rights to use the work & share it with others)

Rights to Think About

Some rights you might want to retain in a publication agreement include the rights to:

  • make reproductions for use in teaching, scholarship, and research
  • borrow portions of the work for use in other works
  • make derivative works
  • alter the work, add to the work, or update the content of the work
  • identified as the author of the work
  • be informed of any uses, reproductions, or distributions of the work
  • perform or display the work
  • include all or part of this material in the your thesis or dissertation
  • make oral presentation of the material in any forum
  • authorize making materials available to underdeveloped nations for humanitarian purposes
  • archive and preserve the work as part of either a personal or institutional initiative (e.g. on your web site or in an institutional repository)
  • retain copyright in every draft and pre-print version of the work

Understanding & Negotiating Your Agreement

What You Can Do

  1. Do your research before selecting a publication outlet.
    • Research the publisher's copyright and archiving policies, and see if there are any copies of their standard agreements available online.
    • Check with peers or other authors regarding their experiences with the publisher.
    • If publishing a journal article,
      • search SHERPA/RoMEO by journal title to investigate the publisher's standard policies.
      • consider submitting your work to open access journals (DOAJ reports copyright policy information on OA journals and recommends that journals allow authors to retain the copyright of their papers without restrictions, but this is not a requirement).
  2. Use this research as a baseline from which to negotiate with the publisher for greater control over your scholarship.
    • Start the conversation with the publisher early in the publication process.
    • Make sure you know which rights are most important to you to retain.
    • Consider adding an author addendum to the agreement. SPARC offers US and Canadian Author Addendums or you can use the Scholars' Copyright Addendum Engine to create a custom agreement. 
  3. Make sure to save (or track down) copies of your agreements for all of your works so that you know how you can use or share them in the future.
  4. Take advantage of your rights.
    • Archive your work in an institutional repository or on a personal website as permitted.
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Image by Jermain Allen from Pixabay