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Author Rights and Scholarly Publishing

Your rights as an author

As a scholar and a researcher, you will likely create or contribute to scholarly articles of which you are the copyright owner. That means that you own the exclusive rights to that work: the right to:

  • Reproduce it (make copies)
  • Distribute it
  • Public perform it
  • Public display it
  • Prepare derivative works from it

Granting rights to a publisher to publish your work

When you publish the work, the publisher will require some grant of rights from you to them in order to publish the work. In scholarly publishing, this is typically done in a “copyright transfer agreement” or a “publication agreement.

  • Some publishers ask authors to transfer FULL copyright (i.e. all of the exclusive rights that you own)
  • Some publishers only seek limited rights and allow authors to retain copyright ownership
  • Authors can negotiate to retain certain rights
  • Authors can publish with publishers or entities that allow full retention of rights

As the author of the scholarly work, YOU have control over it and can decide what rights you want to retain and what rights you want to grant to a publisher. You have these options:

  1. Transfer your full copyright to the publisher
  2. Transfer your copyright, but retain some specific rights
  3. Retain all your rights and grant a publication license to the publisher

Why retain your rights?

Retaining your rights as an author allows you to retain greater control over your work, decide how you want to use your work in teaching and scholarship, and allows you to make your work as widely available as possible.

Some rights you might want to retain:

  • Right to make reproductions for use in teaching, scholarship, and research
  • Right to make derivative works
  • Right to alter the work, add to it, update it, or use it in a future publication
  • Right to make oral presentation of it in any form
  • Right to post your work on your personal or departmental website
  • Right to post your work in an institutional or discipline-specific repository
  • Right to share copies of your work with colleagues and peers

How to retain your rights

You can do the following to retain your rights:

How to know what rights you have in previous publications

You can do the following to determine what rights you have as an author in your previous publications by:

  • Reading your original publication agreement
  • Look up your publisher or journal in Sherpa/Romeo, a database of publisher and journal policies.

These principles and overview of copyright are described in more depth in the Case Western Reserve University Copyright Compliance Policy.