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Open Access Publishing: Author Rights and Resources

Author Rights Resources: Understanding Author Rights

Many publishers’ agreements will ask you to surrender more of your rights than are necessary for publication. Depending on the agreement, you may find yourself unable to re-use portions of your articles in other publications, or even prevented from using your own work in your classes.

Luckily, the library has experts who can help you navigate these agreements and maintain more control of your work. 

Author Rights

Publication Agreement Addenda

SPARC Author Rights and Author Addendum: provides information about retaining copyright for academic articles and sample addenda to submit with a publication agreement. You may download addenda here for the U.S. and Canada.


Science Commons: Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine: allows you to generate a PDF to attach to your publication agreement allowing you to retain more control over the dissemination of your scholarship.

What Are Author Rights?

People often use the terms "author rights" and "literary rights" to mean copyrights. Copyrights are legal rights that attach to certain types of intellectual property. Copyrights are granted under federal law to authors of creative works at the time of the work's creation in a fixed, tangible form. Authors do not have to apply for or file a copyright.

Section 106 of the Copyright Act states that only the owner of a copyright has the authority to use the work in one of six ways:

  • To reproduce the work
    • E.g., make physical or digital copies of your work for colleagues, students, or others
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work
    • ​​E.g., prepare a subsequent article, chapter, or book that builds upon their original or prior research on a particular topic
  • To distribute copies of the work
    • ​​E.g., distribute physical or digital copies of your work to colleagues, students, or at conferences
  • To publicly perform the work
    • E.g., s​​how video of your field work in the classroom or at conferences
  • To publicly display the work
    • E.g., show photos, exhibits, and figures from your works in the classroom or at conferences
  • To publicly perform sound recordings via a digital audio transmission
    • E.g., for those working with sound recordings, to digitally transmit your work (broadcast online, etc.)

Transferring Copyright to Publishers

The six exclusive rights discussed above are commonly referred to as a "bundle of rights" because copyright owners control each of the rights individually and as a group. When a copyright owner contracts with another party to permit use of their rights, the owner can give away one, some, none, or all of their rights. They can transfer or license the rights. When licensing the rights, authors can enter into an exclusive or non-exclusive, irrevocable or revocable license. Because there is flexibility in how these rights are distributed, authors can use this to their advantage when negotiating their authors rights agreements with publishers.

Reading an Author Agreement

Most author rights agreements transfer all copyrights to the publisher in their entirety. Researchers should thoroughly read their publishing agreements before signing to verify what rights they are being asked to give away.

A complete transfer of copyright can have the following implications:

  • Transferring distribution rights may prohibit an author from publishing the work in a repository or other source as required by the terms of a funding agreement;
  • Transferring reproduction, distribution, public display, or public performance rights may prohibit an author from sharing their work with their students, colleagues, or professional organization;
  • Transferring reproduction, distribution, public display, or public performance rights may prohibit an author from sharing their work in their institutional repository or website, in some cases triggering receipt of a take-down notice;
  • Transferring the right to make derivative works may prohibit an author from creating follow-up or related works based on their own research;

Bottom line: 

  • Transferring all copyrights means authors no longer own their work or the right to control where or how it appears; and
  • Transferring all copyrights may result in a publisher reusing an author's works without permission or notice.
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