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Open Access Guide: Your Rights as an Author (Negotiation & Advocacy)

It's Your Work. Know your rights before signing the dotted line....

When you sign a contract with a publisher, you will often be required to transfer your copyright to the publisher, and retain certain rights as the author of the work. When you read over your contract, pay special attention to the language regarding transfer of copyright and author's rights. The rights you retain in the contract might include the following:

  • The right to make copies of your work for educational purposes (in the classroom or on a course website)
  • Deposit the work in a public online archive (such as your institution's digital repository)
  • Re-use portions of the work in future writings

If you do not think the contract allows you to retain sufficient rights for your own future needs, consider looking into the SPARC Author Addendum, which provides more information on authors' rights and suggested language for altering the terms of the contract to increase the rights you can retain.

Learn more about the SPARC Author Addendum here: 


**Want to check current journal policies to find out which authors' rights are typically retained? Go to the SHERPA/RoMEO ( website and search by journal title.

What if you've already published and aren't sure of your rights?

If you have already published, you can follow the same steps you would for when you are about to publish:

  • Check your contract and pay special attention to the language regarding transfer of copyright and author's rights. 
  • Visit the SHERPA/RoMEO website to search for policies of individual journals and publishers regarding the transfer of rights.

Then, depending on your question, you can reach out to the publisher directly with your request. The results will often depend on the specific question and publisher involved.

For more information on publisher policies, go to the How to Make Your Work OA page on this guide.

Should you register my work with the U.S. Copyright Office?

You automatically own the copyright to your work as long as it is in fixed, tangible format, but if you want to bring a lawsuit to enforce your copyright, you will need to register with the U.S. Copyright Office. You can do by filling out and submitting the required registration form online, or sending in a physical form. For more information, go to the U.S. Copyright Office website.