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Some publishers require you to sign away your rights to your intellectual property in order to have your research published. In such cases, you may lose all control over further reproduction or dissemination of your work. You may need to seek the publisher's permission to use your own work in a course packet, or to post it on your personal website or in an institutional repository such as the University's IDEALS. Further, your institution's library is often forced to pay prohibitively high prices to buy back access to the work that you freely gave to the publisher. Thus, you and your institution could find yourselves locked out from your own published research.

Controlling access to your work makes a lot of sense for publishers, many of whom are realizing huge profits by doing so, but increasing publisher control of intellectual property represents a grave threat to the scholarly communication system. As a scholar working in a milieu where the rewards of publishing are impact and prestige rather than personal monetary gain, you presumably want the largest possible audience for your work, and the ability to disseminate it however you see fit. Signing over your intellectual property rights is often at odds with these goals.



You have options for retaining control of your rights. Rather than simply signing the publisher's "Copyright Transfer Agreement," you may reserve certain rights, such as the right to post the pre-refereed or even the post-referred version of the paper somewhere that is publically accessible such as your class website or the University's IDEALS repository. In fact, even if you've signed over your rights, most publishers now allow you to self-archive the postscript version of your papers placing them institutional repositories or your personal website. Check the Sherpa database, to see what the policies of your publisher are.

If the policy for the publisher you want to use isn't listed in the Sherpa database, or isn't what you want it to be, see below for several copyright agreement addenda you may use that will specify to the publisher of your article that you want to retain the right to use your own article.



  • Know Your Copy Rights: What You Can Do: This 6-page pamphlet from the Association of Research Libraries gives tips and guidelines regarding the allowable fair use sharing of articles, images, video, music and other intellectual property created by others. It is designed for faculty and teaching assistants in higher education
  •   SPARC's Resources for Authors: This SPARC site provides "practical guidance when submitting journal articles", including an addendum to affix to publication agreements, specifying rights you wish to maintain. An Author Rights pamphlet explains what rights you have as an author and will help you better understand the rights that you may be needlessly giving away by signing a publisher's agreement.
  • Creative Commons: a nonprofit organization that offers flexible copyright licenses for creative works, be they text, audio, images or other. With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit -- and only under the conditions you specify.
  • Scholar's Copyright Project: Provides several standard, responsible author's copyright agreement addenda that ensure the right of scholars to archive their work on the public Internet.
  • Copyown: A resource on copyright ownership for the higher education community, developed by the University of Maryland and the Association of Research Libraries.
  • Reserving Rights of Use in Works Submitted for Publication: Negotiating Publishing Agreements: From the IUPUI Copyright Management Center, this document provides "simple steps to protect your rights through better contracts with publishers" and sample addenda to attach to publishing agreements.
  • " Copyright as Cudgel" by Siva Vaidhyanathan: This article provides an overview of developments in copyright law in the digital era and their potentially chilling effect in academia (from The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2002).
  • Sample Library and Information Science-related Copyright Agreement Forms