Authors' Rights Resources

When authors publish their work in scholarly journals, they usually transfer most of their rights to it over to the publisher. This means they lose the right to distribute copies to their colleagues and post them to their personal websites or open access repositories--activities which might increase the visibility and impact of their scholarship. Authors who want to use and distribute their work in these ways may wish to negotiate for the retention of some of their rights.


An organization called SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) has created a simple way to do this. In cooperation with Creative Commons and Science Commons, they’ve written an “Author Addendum,” which can be appended to a publishing agreement. The addendum stipulates that several categories of rights are retained by the author, namely:

(i) the rights to reproduce, to distribute, to publicly perform, and to publicly display the Article in any medium for non-commercial purposes; (ii) the right to prepare derivative works from the Article; and (iii) the right to authorize others to make any non-commercial use of the Article so long as Author receives credit as author and the journal in which the Article has been published is cited as the source of first publication of the Article.

The US version of the SPARC Author Addendum can be downloaded here:

SPARC’s accompanying Author Rights brochure contains other useful information, including a clear explanation of what copyright means for authors, instructions on how to use the addendum, and strategies for the scenario in which a publisher rejects it. It also emphasizes the importance for authors of carefully reading and understanding all publishing agreements they sign. The Author Rights brochure can be found on the SPARC website in HTML and PDF formats:

The SPARC addendum may help authors comply with special requirements, such as the mandate that NIH-funded research be deposited in PubMed Central. For scholars with more specific needs, various alternatives can be found. In some cases universities have produced their own author addenda for their faculty to use.


Authors who want to know which allowances are typically made by particular journals and publishers can consult the SHERPA/RoMEO database, which collects information from journal publishers' copyright policies. It's searchable by journal and publisher, and provides an easy visual breakdown of policy types. Four color categories describe the types of self-archiving that are generally allowed:

romeo colors.jpg

The SHERPA/RoMEO database can be accessed here: