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Authors' Rights in Scholarly Publishing: Home

A guide to copyright in scholarly publishing, including negotiating with publishers, journal options, and self-archiving.

Controlling Your Copyright

copyright symbol

In general, the author or creator of a work initially owns its copyright.

There are exceptions to this rule. If a work is created by an employee in the course of his or her employment, the employer usually owns the copyright. Similarly, "work for hire" done by contractors is usually owned by the commissioning person or organization.

Copyright holders may voluntarily release some or all of their rights.

For example, some academic, scholarly or not-for-profit organizations make content freely available under a range of Creative Commons licenses. Open access journals, in particular, often use Creative Commons licenses.

Copyright holders often sell or transfer some or all of their rights to a distributor or a publisher. 

It is common for publishers to ask you to transfer to your copyrights to them as a condition of publication.

Read the publisher's copyright agreement carefully. You may wish to modify it before signing it so that you retain some rights.

For example, you may want to retain the right to incorporate some or all of your article in your thesis or dissertation--without seeking the permission of (or paying royalties to) the publisher.

 

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Know Your Rights!

Before you submit to a journal, check out their copyright policies.

After your article is accepted for publication, ensure that you are retaining the rights you need.

An Example of a Publisher's Copyright Policy (Elsevier):

For Subscription Journals
Authors transfer copyright to the publisher as part of a journal publishing agreement, but have the right to:

  • Share their article for Personal Use, Internal Institutional Use and Scholarly Sharing purposes, with a DOI link to the version of record on publisher site(and with the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC- ND license for author manuscript versions)
  • Retain patent, trademark and other intellectual property rights (including research data).
  • Proper attribution and credit for the published work.

For Open Access Journals
Authors sign an exclusive license agreement, where authors have copyright but license exclusive rights in their article to the publisher. In this case authors have the right to:

  • Share their article in the same ways permitted to third parties under the relevant user license (together with Personal Use rights) so long as it contains a CrossMark logo, the end user license, and a DOI link to the version of record on publisher site.
  • Retain patent, trademark and other intellectual property rights (including research data).
  • Proper attribution and credit for the published work.

Source: Elsevier, "Copyright," 2017.