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Scholarly Communication: Author Rights

Video: I Wrote it Can I Post it?

Many journals and publishers require that a scholar sign copyrights to them, either partially or in full, when publishing work. Signing away copyrights often prevents authors from posting making free copies of their work on personal websites or electronic course reserves. 

Author Rights Resources

Author Rights Tools

About Author Rights

Author rights apply to your original works of authorship

  •  You hold the copyright to your work as soon as you put it onto paper, type it onto your computer screen,  or fix it in some other media (registration is not required)
  •  You hold the copyright for your lifetime plus 70 years
  •  Your copyright is inheritable, or you can sign it over to another person or body

Author rights allow you to...

  •  Reproduce your work (publish, make copies, reformat, etc.)
  •  Create derivative works (edit or build upon an existing piece of scholarship)
  •  Distribute the work (publish, republish, give away, sell, etc.)
  •  Perform, display, or broadcast your work in public
  •  Receive attribution and build your reputation

Author rights are inheritable, separable, and assignable

  •  Rights held from creation through the author’s life plus 70 years
  •  Each right listed above may be individually sold, given away, or granted to another person or body  under a non-exclusive license
  • All your rights may be given away
  • Subsequent rights holders may assign rights in whatever way they choose

How to keep your author rights

When publishing new articles, attach an addendum to publisher agreements so that you can keep the rights to use and distribute your own works. Visit the Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine to create a quick and easy addendum for your negotiations with publishers.

When you sign away your copyright   

  • You lose your rights under copyright (with some fair use exceptions)
  • Current and future use of your work is completely controlled by new rights holder (no moral rights for written works in US)
  • Your institution may not enjoy expanded rights through permission

How to regain author rights for previously published works

Make sure you have the rights to re-use and re-distribute your own works in classes and on ScholarWorks without copyright infringement:

  • Use the SHERPA/RoMEO website to find a summary of permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher’s copyright agreement. You can re-use your materials (not the publisher's final copy) if the publisher has green or gold status.
  • If your publisher does not have SHERPA/RoMEO green or gold status, or if you'd like to use the published version of your article, you can write to your publisher using a permission request to the publisher. Any conditions from the permissions agreement provided by the publisher must be honored. You can find template request letters here.

Open Access is an alternative to assigning away your rights

Faculty and institutions across the country are creating alternatives to exclusive publishing agreements so that scholarship is made more widely available to the people who could benefit from it.