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Learn more about how W&M libraries can help you with publication rights, placement, licensing and more.

About author rights

All authors, whether they are a faculty member publishing a monograph, a grant funded researcher publishing a scholarly article, or a graduate student writing a dissertation, need to be familiar with the basic concepts of copyright and have an awareness of the options for publishing, posting, archiving and distributing their scholarship. Many scholars are not well-versed in these issues but librarians can fill this gap given their knowledge of copyright and the publication process. 

When publishing, authors are presented with a contract or copyright transfer agreement drafted by the publisher. Many of these publisher drafted agreements transfer copyright fully to the publisher thereby restricting an author's subsequent usage of his or her published work, including reuse of the work in teaching and further research.  After transferring copyright to the publisher, the author generally has little say in how the work is later used. The result, all too often, is that contracts restrict the dissemination of one’s scholarship, and the author's impact is diminished. 
Accordingly, authors should take care to retain rights to their work in a manner that permits them and their students and colleagues to use their work in teaching, research and other purposes. Transferring copyright doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Publishers only need the right of first publication, not a wholesale transfer of copyright (an "exclusive right.") So, a compromise is often desirable, which authors can accomplish through an appropriate addendum. (See below for links to more information including sample addendums.) Using an addendum to your author agreement might allow for archiving and open licensing to preserve author's rights to reuse their scholarship and ensure that it is accessible and usable.

It is important to note that you should at the minimum try to negotiate your rights as an author. Use the resources listed below for more details on how you can retain your rights. 

Additional Resources

Before You Sign That Contract!: Harvard's guide to copyright and publishing.

Clauses for Writers: Columbia Law School dissects contracts and offers up helpful language for writers.

Copyright and Authorsʼ Rights: A Briefing Paper (by Kevin L. Smith, J.D. & David R. Hansen, J.D., Duke University for OASIS)

Creative Commons Termination of Transfer Tool: Use this tool to make an educated guess about whether US Copyright law's "termination rights" are relevant to your work so that you can take steps to reclaim ownership of your work.

An Introduction to Publication Agreements for Authors (by Timothy K. Armstrong)

Model Publishing Contract for Digital Scholarship (from Emory U & U of Michigan): Guide for authors who want to incorporate digital tools and methods into their work and offer it in a networked environment. 

Rights reversion (from the Author's Alliance): This guide offers several resources to authors who want to reclaim ownership (copyright) of their works

Sherpa/ROMEO: This database contains journal copyright and publication policies. It's a great place to start looking to see what you can and cannot do with your publication during the many stages of the editorial process.

SPARC Author Rights & Addendum: Provides information on thinking through your rights as an example. It also includes links to an author rights brochure and to a sample addendum to a publishing contract to preserve your rights when negotiating with a publisher.

Understanding and Negotiating Book Publication Contracts: This book from the Authors Alliance was designed to help authors to learn about the basics of copyright law, and how copyright shapes the author-publisher relationship; evaluate the pros and cons of assigning and/or licensing their copyrights; understand the responsibilities of authors and publishers in preparing, designing, and marketing a book; clarify financial matters such as advances, royalties, and accounting statements; consider options for making their books available to readers in the short and long term and advocate and negotiate for contract terms that help them meet their creative and pragmatic goals.

Is it harder to publish elsewhere if your dissertation or thesis is open access?

Scholarly research indicates that not only are publishers offering more open access content from their own platforms, but they are increasingly receptive to publishing content which originally was posted open access elsewhere. Generally, this is because scholarship goes under extensive editing between initial publication as a thesis or dissertation and acceptance into a peer-review publication. The articles below speak to this effect.