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Authors' Rights in Scholarly Publishing: Negotiating with Publishers

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


You can negotiate with publishers before signing a contract:

  • Read the agreement carefully
  • Think about what you might need to use your work for in the future (e. g. future publications, teaching purposes)
  • Modify and cross out language in the contract for rights you want to keep

a handshake with one arm coming out of a computer monitor to shake the other

What rights should you keep? That is up to you – you can transfer copyright by get non-exclusive publishing rights, or keep copyright and transfer limited rights to a publisher, for example.

You can also ask for permission after publication; for example, if you'd like to post your work on your personal website.

Negotiation does not have guaranteed outcomes, but it can be useful if there are certain rights you really want to retain.

Consider publishing with Open Access publishers or journals, so you can avoid negotiation altogether!


Cirasella J. You know what you write, but do you know your rights? Understanding and protecting your rights as an author [PowerPoint presentation]. CUNY Graduate Center. [updated 2015; cited 2021 Feb 5]. Available from:

SPARC [Internet]. Washington (DC): SPARC; c2007-2020. Author rights: Using the SPARC Author Addendum; 2006 [cited 2021 Feb 12]. Available from:

University of Iowa Libraries Subject Guide: Copyright [Internet]. Iowa City (IA): University of Iowa, c2019. Author rights; 2020 [cited 2022 Apr 14]. Available from:


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Using an Addendum

When negotiating, you can also consider adding an addendum to the contract. There are a couple of tools that can help you craft one that will fit your needs:

The SPARC Author Addendum allows you to select which individual rights you'd like to keep. It can be filled out online or downloaded.

The Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine helps you generate a PDF form that you can append to a publisher's contract and includes a FAQ that helps in selecting the right addendum option for your needs.