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Copyright and Author Rights

This guide is designed to provide information about copyright and fair use in an academic setting, and to provide guidance on finding and using materials in in-person, online, and hybrid courses.

Know Your Rights

"When you decide to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal, you own the full copyrights to that article. If you publish in an open access journal, you retain your full copyrights. However, if you choose to publish in a traditional subscription access journal, you will be required to sign a form transferring some – or all – of your copyrights to that publisher. That doesn’t have to be the end of the story. When you sign a copyright transfer form, you can decide which rights you want to keep, and which you want to give away. Understanding the effect of fully exercising the rights you have as an author can help you make educated choices about the publishing outlets you choose to submit work to." 

---   SPARC on Author Rights 

Manage & Retain Your Article Copyright

When an author (or creator) writes an article for a scholarly journal, a chapter for a book, a monograph, or other work, they are typically asked to sign a publication agreement or a copyright transfer agreement. The purpose of the agreement is to transfer ownership of copyright to the publisher.

These agreements can be negotiable, and you as the creator can retain some specific rights. A few examples of these are:

  • include articles in course packs
  • place articles on a personal web site
  • archive in an institutional repository

Alternately, the author may retain copyright ownership and grant a non-exclusive license to the publisher, typically for the right of first formal publication. Additionally, the author can choose to publish in an open access scholarly journal, which generally allows the author to retain copyright ownership for their work. To learn more about publishing open access, check out our Open Access Publishing guide.

Many publishers already grant rights back to authors automatically. Your copyright transfer agreement is the ultimate source of information regarding your publication, but some information on publisher policies, particularly in regard to re-posting and sharing your work online, can be found on the SHERPA/RoMEO database.


Keep in mind that publishers may not always want to negotiate their default copyright transfer agreement, and your request to maintain some or all rights to your work may be declined.

When in doubt, you can request a consultation with a librarian to review the agreement with you and provide the options available to you as an author.

Author Addendums

copyright addendum helps authors ask for certain rights for their own works. Try using these when preparing to sign a copyright transfer agreement.

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