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Copyright Resources

Understanding Your Rights as an Author

Producing any scholarly work (a book, an article, a poster or presentation) is the result of a tremendous amount of time and effort on an author's part. Having your work accepted for publication is a significant achievement, but don't let the excitement lead you to give away rights that can hinder your ability to disseminate your work widely.

Typically, publishers will ask you to sign a publication agreement (sometimes called an "author agreement" or "copyright transfer agreement”).  These agreements determine who owns the copyright to your work, as well as any other exclusive or non-exclusive rights of the author and publisher. It is important to know that you can negotiate with publishers to retain some of your rights. You do not need to sign everything away!

Before you sign, consider how you might want to use your work in the future. Some of these include:

  • Making copies of the work for educational use or to share with colleagues
  • Using part of the work as a basis for a future publication or preparing derivative works based upon the original work (this includes dissertations and theses)
  • Presenting the work at a conference or meeting and giving copies of the work to attendees
  • Distributing copies of the work to the public via transfer, sale, rental, lease, or lending
  • Depositing the work in an institutional or funding agency repository
  • Posting the work on a laboratory or institutional website
  • Using the work in a compilation of works or collected works
  • Expanding the work into a book form or book chapter

Transferring all of your rights as an author to the publisher can limit your ability to do these things. Be sure to negotiate with your publisher before signing.

Recommended Practices for Authors

  • Consider how you might want to use your work in the future
  • Review the copyright policy of a journal before submitting
  • Review the publisher's copyright agreement form before signing
  • Consider discussing or negotiating for additional rights with the publisher
  • Retain a copy of the signed copyright agreement
  • Retain a copy of the final, peer-reviewed accepted manuscript version of a paper if possible (for the NIH public access compliance process if applicable, or for self-archiving in an institutional or discipline repository)

Negotiating with Publishers

  1. Discuss your dissemination needs with your editorial contact at the journal or publisher at submission or acceptance.
  2. Confirm any rights you negotiate in writing.  One way to do this is to ask the publisher for an amended copyright agreement. Another option is to add your desired rights directly to the copyright agreement form, if the form allows for this.  Finally, a third option is to submit an addendum to the copyright agreement that spells out the desired rights. See "Tools to Create an Addendum for Agreements" on this page. 

Have you wanted to self-archive or retain your author rights, but were concerned about how your publisher would respond? This is an example of early negotiation with publishers to enable author self-archiving. 

Self-Archiving Your Work

Many journal publishers allow authors to freely and legally post a version of their published articles in an institutional archive or repository. This is called “self-archiving.” UMass Chan authors can use the eScholarship@UMassChan repository, maintained by the Library, for self-archiving.

How to self-archive your journal article:

  • Check the journal's copyright policy for self-archiving (use Sherpa Romeo or search for information on the journal's website)
  • Identify an appropriate repository available to you (such as eScholarship@UMassChan or a disciplinary repository)
  • Deposit your work
  • Consult your UMass Chan librarians for assistance with any of these steps (see Contact Us information on this page)

Publishers prohibiting inclusion may grant exceptions if the author requests it. If your journal or publisher does not give standing permission for self-archiving, ask for permission. Here is a template with sample wording to ask permission from a publisher for self-archiving an article:

Dear [insert name of publisher, rights manager or similar],

I am writing to ask permission to post a copy of an article of mine which was published in one of your journals in my institution's repository, eScholarship@UMMS.

The article is:

[authors names], [date], [title]

[journal name], [volume or number], [pages]

The institutional repository is a not-for-profit service for academic authors, providing access to the full-text of their publications. Full bibliographic details are given for each article, including the journal of original publication, etc.

If possible, I would like to use the published pdf version. The pdf version has an advantage over posting my own version, in that it maintains consistency in appearance of the article wherever it is read. This also maintains a closer association of the article with the journal, through the running headers and the journal formatting and style.

I would be grateful if you could respond at your earliest convenience to give your permission for including this article and to pass on any conditions that are associated. If it would be possible to use the published pdf version of the article for this purpose, then please confirm this.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

Tools to Create an Addendum for Agreements

Need Help?

If you need help with any issues related to your rights as an author, negotiating aspects of these rights with a publisher, or depositing your work into eScholarship@UMMS, librarians are available to help. Contact information is available on this page.