Library:Scholarly Communications/Author Rights

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This page provides an introduction to author rights: the typical rights that are included in copyright, as well as information on how to negotiate the rights you retain when working with publishers.

What are Author Rights?

Author rights refer to the rights you retain over your work when you sign a publication agreement. When you publish a book or a paper, many publishers will typically ask you to transfer all your copyrights to the work as a condition of publication. This contract may also be referred to as a “copyright transfer agreement”.

It is important to look carefully at your agreement. Unless the agreement indicates otherwise, you may be forbidden to:

  • Make copies to distribute to your students.
  • Post your work to a personal website or online archive.
  • Give copies of your work to colleagues.
  • Use parts of the work in future publications.
  • Grant permission for others to use your work.

Remember that publication agreement are negotiable. See information under Managing Copyright for author addendums, which can be attached to publication agreement to retain certain rights over your work.

If you’d like assistance interpreting a publication agreement, or assistance with negotiating rights, contact us.

For information about how to post copies of your research online in a copyright-compliant manner, please see The Canadian Association of Research Libraries' guide to takedown notices (at the bottom of the page).

Who owns the copyright to my research?

Copyright protection arises automatically for all original literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, computer programs, translations and compilations of works, as well as sound recordings, performances and communication signals.

As the creator of the work, you automatically have copyright over your intellectual work, unless you sign an agreement transferring certain rights to another individual organization, which is often the purpose of the publication agreement you sign with a publisher.

Publication agreements are negotiable: if the agreement does not allow for certain key rights(the right to archive a peer-reviewed copy of your work, for instance), you can request an amendment to your agreement. For more information, see the information under Managing Copyright.

Managing Copyright

How do I retain my rights when working with publishers?

Copyright is actually a bundle of rights, including the rights over reproduction, creation of derivative works, distribution, and public display. Read your publication agreement (sometimes also called a copyright transfer agreement) to see if the publisher allows you to retain rights that are important to you.

Remember that publication agreements are negotiable. If your agreement asks you to forfeit important rights over your work, there are tools available to negotiate a more balanced agreement: The SPARC Canadian Author Addendum and Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine generate PDF documents that may be attached to a publisher agreement, and allow you retain certain rights, including:

  • To reproduce your work for non-commercial purposes.
  • To reuse portions of your article in derivative works.
  • To grant permission for others to make non-commercial use of your work.

For more information about copyright in general, see the UBC copyright site.

Can I share my research online through a personal website or digital repository?

This will depend on the copyright policies of your publisher, the rights you retained through your publication agreement, and the version of the work you’d like to share.

Some publisher agreements allows authors to archive pre-prints (your manuscript prior to peer review), and/or post prints (your final peer-reviewed manuscripts). Open Access journals often allow you to retain copyright over your article with very few or no restrictions (authors are often able to freely share the PDF of the final article). Publishers may also specify conditions such as where you can archive, how soon after publication, and how to cite the resource when archiving.

The best way to determine what you can do is to read your publication agreement. You can also refer to SHERPA/RoMEO, which provides details of the archiving rights normally given by the publishing agreements of various publishers. SHERPA/RoMEO ranks publishers on the following scale:

  • Green: authors can archive post-prints (the final draft of an article after peer review) and the publisher’s final PDF version of articles.
  • Blue: authors can archive post-prints or the publisher’s final PDF version of the article.
  • Yellow: authors can archive pre-prints (the version of the paper before peer-review).

Can I use parts of an article I have published in a new work?

Again, this will depend on your publication agreement.

These agreements typically establish who owns the copyright for the article (usually the publisher), and they often also outline how the article may be reused by the authors in the future. If you did sign such an agreement and you still have a copy on file, then you should check to see (1) who owns the copyright and (2) whether the agreement provides advance permission for authors to reuse content from the article in future publications.

If you don’t have a copy of your publication agreement, or if the agreement does not provide advance permission for reuse in future publications, then you will need to seek permission from the publisher to republish content. For most large publishers, you can usually obtain permission through the Copyright Clearance Center, or by contacting the permissions office of your publisher directly.