Author Rights

As an author, you have three important questions you need to ask. What rights do you have? What rights should you keep? What rights do you give away? As the creator of a work you possess the original copyright of your work. Copyright is actually a bundle of rights that include:

The right to copy or reproduce the work in any format, whether digital or analog

The right to make derivative works (including adaptations of the work, translations, revisions, film versions, etc.)

The right to control distribution of new copies of the work

The right to perform the work publicly

The right to display the work publicly

As the author or creator of the work, you retain these rights unless you transfer them to someone else, or a publisher, in a written agreement. Frequently, a publisher’s agreement will request the transfer of all these rights to the publisher. If an author wishes to use the work, they must seek permission from the new copyright owner.

These rights can be segmented and transferred to others. These rights can also be exclusive or non-exclusive. Traditionally, scholars have given away all of these rights to publishers in return for publication. Now many authors choose to retain some of their rights, and only transfer or license those needed to publish their article.

Increasingly, authors choose to self-archive their articles, through a service such as ScholarWorks, in a way that provides what is known as Green Open Access. There are two important versions of a paper that an author should save in order to make them available as open access in ScholarWorks. These are:

PREPRINTS refers to pre-refereeing (i.e., pre refereed) research papers, almost all of which were prepared for submission to refereed journals (or refereed conference proceedings) for refereeing.

POSTPRINTS are post-refereeing (i.e., refereed, revised, accepted final drafts of) research papers, all of them appearing in or soon to appear in refereed journals (or refereed conference proceedings).

Some publishers allow preprint and postprint versions of an article to be posted online. The rights regarding the postprint and the published article will be spelled out in the publisher’s agreement. Authors can ensure that they will retain the necessary rights, in order to make their articles available as open access articles, by attaching an Author’s addendum to the Publisher’s Agreement.

The SPARC Author Addendum is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles including:

the rights to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and publicly display the article in any medium for non-commercial purposes

the right to prepare derivative works from the article

the right to authorize others to make any non-commercial use of the article, so long as author receives credit as author and the journal in which the article has been published is cited as the source of first publication of the article


Understanding your rights: preprints, post-prints and publisher versions (Scientific American Blog)

SPARC Author Rights

Creative Commons

Authors Alliance