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Scholarly Communication

An exploration of issues relating to scholarly communication and open access.

Your Copyright

According to the law, copyright is granted to authors upon expressing their ideas in a "tangible form", even if it is an unpublished manuscript. No registration is needed to become the legitimate copyright holder of your own work. As the author, you have the exclusive right to copy, distributed or perform your work, unless you give your permission to others to do so. In fact, in order to publish your article, all the publisher needs is your permission, yet standard publisher agreements transfer all your rights to the publisher. You don't have to accept it, as the owner of your own intellectual property.  Negotiate your "copyright transfer of agreement" with the publisher by offering an author's addendum.  Many publishers will comply with the addendum or offer a new agreement that includes the rights that were requested in the addendum.

Before Publishing

Before a publisher can distribute an author’s work, both must sign a copyright transfer agreement (contract). This contract grants the publisher either an exclusive or non-exclusive license to publish and distribute the author’s work. The type of contract the author signs determines which rights the author retains to his or her work.  These negotiated rights determine what authors can do with their work after publication, including submitting their work to an institutional repository.

Negotiating Your Rights

Transferring copyright need not be all or nothing in terms of relinquishing your rights as an author.  Negotiation should be a part of the publication process.  Things to consider include:

  • Attribution
  • Preserving the integrity of your work
  • Future educational use of your work
  • Future professional use of your work
  • New technologies

The following steps may be taken during the process of negotiation:

  • Explain to the publisher why it is important for you to retain your specified rights.
  • If unaccepted, ask the publisher to articulate why your contrary terms are insufficient to allow publication.
  • Evaluate the adequacy of the publisher's response in light of the reasonable and growing need for authors to retain certain key rights to their works.