Author Rights

Introduction to Author Rights

Authors of scholarly publications are usually asked to sign a Copyright Transfer Agreement, which transfers the copyright to the written work to the publisher. This can limit the ability of an author to re-use, distribute or modify that work in the future. Each author, upon creating a new work, has the following bundle of rights:

  • The right to reproduce the work
  • The right to distribute the work
  • The right to prepare a derivative of the work
  • The right to perform the work
  • The right to display work

Copyright is an exclusive set of rights granted to the creator of a tangible creative work. The work does not need to be registered, although authors can register works to establish definitive authorship.

Your manuscript is your intellectual property. By asking you to transfer your copyright, a publisher is asking for permanent ownership of that property. You do not need to transfer your copyright for a publisher to publish and distribute your work. Rather than transferring copyright, authors can:

  • License use of their work to others either exclusively or non-exclusively
  • License one or two of the rights rather than all of them
  • License rights for a limited amount of time

An exclusive license gives the licensee sole access to those rights for the time period of the license. The copyright holder does not have access to those rights for that time period.

A non-exclusive right gives the licensee the right to use the work but also reserves the same right to the copyright holder.

This 2-minute video from SPARC gives a brief overview of Author Rights:

Author Addenda

Author addenda are tools for authors to use in negotiating with publishers about the rights to their work. Author addenda are legal instruments used to modify Copyright Transfer Agreements (CTAs). In use since 2005, they have standard legal language which has been tested over time. They are easy to use so little expertise is needed.

The major addenda available for use by scholarly authors all retain non-exclusive rights to distribute, copy, modify, perform and display in connection with author’s scholarly work. These addenda give authors flexibility when negotiating with publishers:

  • You can use an addendum exactly the way it is set up, OR
  • You can use an addendum and strike out any language you don’t like, OR
  • You can use language from an addendum without using the actual document

Addenda give you options and legal language which work in your favor, to be used however you wish.

SPARC Author Addendum to Publication Agreement

Unique to this agreement: authorizes non-commercial uses, requires publisher to provide PDF or similar format of final article without technical restrictions, establishes prior non-exclusive licenses such as to funder or to institution (faculty OA policy).

UConn Modified Author Amendment to Publication Agreement

Based on the original MIT Amendment and modified for use by authors at the University of Connecticut in 2006.

Unique to this agreement: authorizes uses connected to teaching, conference presentations, lectures, and scholarly, academic & professional activities; gives author rights to use final published version of article on author’s or employer’s website or in repository; allows author to grant institution non-exclusive rights.

Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine

Build-your-own model offers 3 options: a delayed access model, an immediate access model, and a generic version of the MIT Amendment.

Unique to this agreement: gives author access to the final published version of the article, acknowledges possible prior grant of non-exclusive rights for funder or institutional open access policies.

Other Resources

Negotiating with Publishers

Cornell University Library Author Rights Glossary

Creative Commons License Guide