Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Scholarly Communications

In 2003, ACRL defined scholarly communication as "the system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to to the scholarly community, and preserved."

Your 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. 

Copyright applies automatically and does not need to be registered to be considered legally protected. As the copyright owner of a work you own what is referred to as the "bundle of rights." This means that as the copyright holder you (and only you) have the ability to copy, distribute, adapt, display, or perform a work. (Of course, there is the fair use exemption which you can learn more about on our Fair Use Page.)

You can transfer these rights in part or in their entirety. Publishers draft agreements or contracts that outline the transfer of some or all of these rights. If you aren't careful, you could transfer all your rights to the publisher which could severely limit subsequent use of your own work, including in teaching and further research. If you've transferred copyright to the publisher, you have very little say (if any) in how the work is later used, which could include creating an anthology or commercially sold textbook.

Accordingly, authors/researchers 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.") 
 
A compromise is often desirable and usually attainable. There are many ways to negotiate your rights and additional arguments as to why.  (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.
 

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 Authors╩╝ 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.