“Recommendation: Campuses should initiate discussions involving administration and faculty about modifying current practices and/or its intellectual property policies such that the university retains a set of rights sufficient to ensure that broad dissemination of the research and scholarly work produced by its faculty occurs.”
Author Rights and Publishing Agreements are a critical part of the process of making scholarly published works openly available. Without due caution, authors can easily sign away valuable rights and significantly limit the accessibility of their works. This page contains information and resources pertaining to author rights, including important considerations before signing publishing agreements and ways to make works openly available even after those agreements have been signed.
An Introduction to Publication Agreements for Authors. In a brief article, Professor Timothy Armstrong of the University of Cincinnati College of Law discusses author rights as they relate to publishing agreements, and an author’s ability to openly share their work.
[Know Your Rights!]
Before You Sign Your Authors Agreements
Publishers may or may not allow works to be shared. Check your agreement carefully to see what the publisher’s policies are. We can help authors determine whether a particular work may be shared or not. Send the author accepted manuscript (AAM) of your work and the publisher’s agreement to firstname.lastname@example.org.
After You Sign Your Authors Agreements
Even if you have already signed an author agreement, you still may be able to share your work. Check your agreement carefully to see what the publisher’s policies are. We can also help, send us the author accepted manuscript and the citation of your work so we can help determine if the work can be shared or not to email@example.com.
A database devoted to providing publisher copyright and self-archiving policies.
Options for Authors
Below are three options available to authors before they submit their works for publication, or at the time of the authors agreement.
Option 1: Retain all rights and license the publication.
The ideal solution from the author’s perspective would be to retain the copyright and all associated rights in their work while licensing to publishers only the rights the publisher needs to conduct its business. The author gets to determine who can use the scholarship. For example, the author could grant the publisher an exclusive license for the first formal publication of the work (in print, digital, or some other form). In addition, the author might want to grant the publisher non-exclusive rights to authorize (or accomplish themselves) the following:
Subsequent republication of the work
Reformatting of the publication (from print to microfilm or digital formats)
Distribution via document delivery services or in course packs
The key issue with Option 1 is determining what the minimum bundle of rights that the publisher needs in order to protect its investment in the publication. This will vary from publisher to publisher.
Option 2: Transfer the copyright, but retain some specified rights.
The author can assign copyright to the publisher, but at the same time reserve some specific rights themselves. Rights authors might want to receive from the publisher include:
The right to make reproductions for use in teaching, scholarship, and research
The right to borrow portions of the work for use in other works
The right to make derivative works
The right to alter the work, add to the work, or update the content of the work
The right to be identified as the author of the work
The right to be informed of any uses, reproductions, or distributions of the work
The right to perform or display the work
The right to include all or part of this material in the a thesis or dissertation
The right to make oral presentation of the material in any forum
The right to authorize making materials available to underdeveloped nations for humanitarian purposes
The right to archive and preserve the work as part of either a personal or institutional initiative, e.g. on a web site or in an institutional repository.
The copyright in every draft and pre-print version of the work.
The weakness of Option 2 is that it is often difficult to anticipate in advance everything that an author may wish to do with a work, especially over time and with changes in information technology.
Option 3: Transfer all copyrights to the publisher.
Option 3 is the traditional solution, but is the least desirable from the author’s perspective.
Copyright is a form of legal protection for authors of original works, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual products. Copyright was established in the Constitution: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries” (Article 1, Section 8). While the details of copyright law have changed in the ensuing centuries, the essential impetus to promote future creative works remains a defining feature of the law.
Under U.S. law, “copyright” is a bundle of exclusive rights, conferred by federal statute (the 1976 Copyright Act, found in Title 17 of the United States Code) automatically, upon the author of a work, at the instant of its creation. Original works created after January 1, 1978, are protected by copyright from the moment they are fixed in a tangible medium of expression.