You hold the copyright to your work as soon as you put it on paper, type it out, or create it in some other media. Author rights allow you to reproduce, adapt, or freely distribute your own work.
Many authors of scholarly articles unknowingly sign over some—or all—of their rights to journals and publishers when their work is published. Doing so prevents them from posting a copy of the article on personal websites, depositing it in an open access repository, or even sharing that article through electronic course reserves.
The good news? There are ways to keep your rights as an author:
Negotiate your rights! A publisher only requires author permission, known as a non-exclusive license, to publish. Yet, some publishers ask authors to transfer their rights to the publisher through a standard Copyright Transfer Agreement. We recommend that you examine the Copyright Transfer Agreement, and negotiate with the publisher to retain the rights that you need. The SPARC Author Addendum to Publication Agreement is a free, legal tool that modifies and supplements a publisher’s agreement, allowing you to keep key rights to your work.
Publish with journals that have progressive copyright, access, and archiving policies. Many publishers will allow the pre-print (version before peer-review) or the final peer-reviewed version of a paper to be shared on a personal website or archived in an open access repository. The Sherpa/Romeo database offers a summary of publisher archiving policies.
Publish in scholarly open access journals. Many open access publishers allow authors to retain some of their copyright. Choose from the thousands of peer-reviewed, open access journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Many journals in the DOAJ also license articles with Creative Commons licenses, which help authors and creators retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work.
ARL Web Resources on Author Rights: Find resources on copyright and intellectual property, compiled by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resource Coalition (SPARC).
SPARC Author Rights Canadian Brochure: This resource answers frequent questions about Author Rights, while also teaching creators how to use the SPARC Author Addendum (Canadian Addendum; United States Addendum) to manage rights as an author of a journal article. A version of the brochure relevant to publishing in the United States is also available.
Creative Commons interactive tool: Use this tool to determine which Creative Commons license works best for you and your work.