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Copyright for Authors: Publication Agreements

Scientific American - Series 1 - Volume 011 - Issue 30

Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Publisher Copyright Policies

Sherpa Romeo

Search SHERPA/RoMEO to find out about publisher's policies on copyright and self-archiving.

Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine

Creative Commons and Science Commons created the Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine, which will help you generate a PDF form that you can attach to a journal publisher's agreement to ensure that you retain certain rights.

Publication Agreements

A publication agreement is a legal contract between you & your publisher. Among other things, it determines

  • who the copyright owner is -- an agreement may transfer ownership from you to your publisher.
  • what rights you retain over your work -- if the publisher becomes the copyright owner, the agreement can still grant the author certain rights to use the work & share it with others.

Understanding & Negotiating Your Agreement

What You Can Do

  • Check the publisher's copyright/self-archiving policies.  Search SHERPA/RoMEO by journal title to investigate publisher's standard copyright and self-archiving policies.  Use the copyright links provided to verify against the publisher's own website.
  • Transfer copyrights but reserve some rights: negotiate with the publisher in advance of what rights you would like to retain.
  • Keep copyrights and transfer limited rights: 
    • Add a Creative Commons license to your work to retain copyright but allow others permission to use your work in certain ways.
  • Submit work to open access journals or to publishers with generous copyright policies (list of publishers allowing deposition of published work in repositories): Many publishers are liberalizing their policies to help achieve a balance between their interests and those of their authors.

Rights to Think About

You can assign your copyright to the publisher, but at the same time reserve some specific rights for yourself. Rights you might want to receive from the publisher include:

• The right to make reproductions for use in teaching, scholarship, and research
• The right to borrow portions of the work for use in other works
• The right to make derivative works
• The right to alter the work, add to the work, or update the content of the work
• The right to be identified as the author of the work
• The right to be informed of any uses, reproductions, or distributions of the work
• The right to perform or display the work
• The right to include all or part of this material in the your thesis or dissertation
• The right to make oral presentation of the material in any forum
• The right to authorize making materials available to underdeveloped nations for humanitarian purposes
• The right to 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.
• The copyright in every draft and pre-print version of the work.