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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."

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, including teaching faculty, are not well-versed in these issues and therefore not equipped to educate students who they may be similarly advising. 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 assign the 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. So, a compromise is often desirable, which authors can accomplish through an appropriate addendum. Librarians are a natural source for information on this topic and should undertake efforts to educate faculty, staff and students on their rights as authors and what measures they can take through copyright amendment, archiving and open licensing to preserve the 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.

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)

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 Brochure: Provides examples and guidance on how to use an author addendum 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.

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 as open access elsewhere. For example, they are often allowing for more posting of pre-prints (content before editorial review) as well as post-prints (content which has been edited but not formatted into a reprint). 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.

Ramírez, Marisa L., et al. "Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Sciences?" College & Research Libraries 75.6 (2014): 808-821.
Sherpa/ROMEO statistics indicate that nearly 80% of the the nearly 2500 publishers they track allow for posting of pre-prints and/or post-prints.
Truschke, Audrey. Open Access and Dissertation Embargoes. Dissertation Reviews (April 6, 2015)
Truschke, Audrey. Publishing a Revised Dissertation. Dissertation Reviews (April 13, 2015)
Find a bibliography of articles citing benefits of publishing OA here
Marian Taliaferro's picture
Marian Taliaferro
Swem Library
(757) 221-1893
Lauren Manninen's picture
Lauren Manninen
Hargis Library
Virginia Institute of Marine Science