This guide is based on Institutional Repository Services by Jeffrey Mortimore of Georgia Southern University.
All materials prepared for and directly part of this guide are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike (CC-BY-NC-SA) license.
Your copyrights are a valuable asset that should be protected throughout the publication process. Whether you are vetting potential publishers or reviewing the terms under which you previously published a work, take the time to understand their copyright and reuse policies, and negotiate to protect you right to self-archive and share your work. See below for more about researchers' rights as authors, including our slideshow overview below.
As an author, you hold copyright in your work from the moment your original expression is fixed in tangible form. “Copyright” refers to a bundle of copyrights, which are separate and distinct. You can retain, transfer, or license any one of these rights, or all of them.
For anything to be published, copyrights must be exercised, either by the copyright holder or by a licensee. As a bundle of rights, the “sticks” in the bundle can be transferred or licensed, exclusively or non-exclusively, to one or more parties. Ideally, publishing should seek a balance between what rights are fairly transferred or licensed to the publisher, and what rights are fairly retained by the author.
Most publishers use one of two legal mechanisms for transferring copyright for, or otherwise licensing, your work for publication. Policies vary significantly by publisher, and rights typically are licensed back to the author according to the article version.
Publishers are most likely to allow you to self-archive and distribute a pre-print. However, because this version does not include revisions made as the result of any editorial or peer-review process, this version is least desirable for sharing. Publishers may also allow you to self-archive and distribute a post-print. Because the content of the post-print is largely the same as the published version of your work, you are strongly encouraged to archive a post-print if permitted. Publishers are least likely to allow you to self-archive and distribute the published version of your work. However, you may be able to archive the published version of your work, and then distribute it after a specified embargo period.
Many publishers are willing to negotiate the terms of their copyright transfer agreements, or permit use of a license to publish instead. Regardless, it is important for you to review and negotiate the terms of publication with the publisher prior to signing any documents. A license to publish written in the publisher's favor may restrict your rights just as much as a copyright transfer agreement.
The first step to protecting your copyright is to review copyright policies as part of vetting potential publishers or publications for your work. You are strongly encouraged to consult with your Library Liaison during this process. During the vetting process, consider the following steps:
The second step to protecting your copyright occurs when you submit your work to a publisher. Some publishers now require "click-through" agreements which the author completes at the time of manuscript submission, thus binding the author to certain conditions if the work is accepted for publication. If this is the case, you should review the click-through agreement as carefully as you would any copyright transfer agreement or license to publish. If you have concerns about the content of the click-through agreement, you may need to contact the publisher prior to submitting your work.
The third step to protecting your copyright occurs after your work has been accepted for publication. When preparing for publication, consider the following steps:
Remember, until you sign any copyright transfer agreements or licenses to publish, you retain exclusive copyright over your work. If you cannot accept the conditions a publisher will place on you in order to publish your work, consider a different publisher.
For previously published works, maximize visibility and impact by archiving and sharing these works to the extent your copyright agreement or license allows:
If your agreement/license permits self-archiving and distribution of a Pre-Print, Post-Print, or Published Version, let the library upload a copy to The Knowledge Box and your Expert Gallery profile. Doing so creates additional discovery and access points for your work; allows other researchers to discover your ideas faster by removing access barriers; and promotes you, your program, and the University along with your work. If you currently do not have authority, you may petition the copyright holder for permission or seek to recover your copyright:
If your work is "made for hire," then you may need to obtain permission to self-archive your work. Please consult with your supervisor. For Georgia Southern University documents explicitly prepared for public dissemination, such permission is implicit in final approval and distribution of the document.