Your work is valuable -- to you, to your readers and colleagues, and to the publishers who make it available to the public. Thus, while getting published is the ultimate goal, you should take care when signing agreements with publishers. Publication agreements vary widely from journal to journal and some are unnecessarily restrictive.

This section provides some information about what to look for in a publishing contract and introduces resources that will assist you in amending overly aggressive contracts. Publishers may be willing to accommodate such requests as they are already heavily invested in publishing your research after it has been shepherded through the time and resource-intensive peer-review process.

Why Retain Rights?

Your contract with a publisher will determine what you can legally do with your own work. For instance, you may find that your contract limits your ability to:

  • Share your work publicly
  • Reprint your work, or reuse portions of it in a future publication
  • Use your work in your teaching
  • Translate your work
  • ...and more

If you think you might want to do anything like that in the future, you should read your contract carefully! Some publishers will ask you to sign away your copyright, but will grant you back certain rights. Others will allow you to retain copyright, but will write contracts granting themselves exclusive rights that prevent you from sharing your work as you wish. Thus, it’s important to look at the specific rights granted, not just the ownership of copyright overall.

 Resources on Authors' Rights and Publisher Policies

  Sherpa Romeo
Sherpa Romeo is an online resource that aggregates and analyses publisher open access policies from around the world and provides summaries of publisher copyright and open access archiving policies on a journal-by-journal basis.

  Keep Your Copyrights Project (Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts)
Information on authors' rights, copyright basics, understanding publisher contracts, and notifying others of your copyright.

  Understanding Publisher Methods (Cornell University)
Provides examples of problematic clauses in publisher contracts, along with sample contracts from real publishers.

  Understanding and Negotiating Book Publication Contracts (Authors Alliance)
A guide to book publishing contracts, with practical advice on terms, obligations, and negotiation.

 Authors' Addenda

  Author Addendum (SPARC)
The SPARC author addendum is a supplemental agreement that can be added to a proposed publication contract. The addendum modifies copyright transfer agreements to allow author to retain specified copyrights which may include the distribution of copies for the purpose of teaching and research, posting an article to an institutional repository, and/or creating derivative works.
"SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) works to enable the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials in order to democratize access to knowledge, accelerate discovery, and increase the return on our investment in research and education."

  Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine (Creative Commons)
Generates customized copyright addenda.

Subject Librarian Contact information

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