Author's Rights

You automatically have a basic set of copyrights when you create an original work and the work is 'fixed' in some format—it might be a digital document on your computer, or notes on paper.  Those exclusive rights are to:

  • Make copies of the work
  • Distribute (publish) the work
  • Revise/adapt the work (create a movie from your book)
  • Publicly display the work
  • Publicly perform the work

According to current federal copyright law, those rights exist for "life of the creator plus 70 years." As the orginal creator, you may keep all of those rights, keep some of them or share some of them.

However, when you create a new work and take it to a publisher, typically you transfer all your copyrights to the publisher. At that point, you no longer have the right to make copies and distribute your article, perform your play, or make your article part of a new book. In exchange for absorbing the costs of copies and publication, you've given your publisher your copyrights—and later, you might need to seek permission to use your original work.

Retaining Your Rights 

Today authors are encouraged to retain or share some of their rights and plan ahead for new uses of their works.  Examples might be to ask for non-exclusive (shared) rights for two of the exclusive rights—making copies and distributing them.

For instance, give your publisher exclusive rights of copies and publication for the first 6 or 12 months, so they can  maintain their market prominence and you can get efficient and widespread distribution of your work. After that time, you might share copy and distribution rights so you could:

  • post your work on a department website
  • post your work on a personal website
  • post  your work on a courseware site
  • distribute your work to colleagues at other institutions or at conferences
  • self-archive your work by deposit into an insitutional or disciplinary repository

Remember the other exclusive rights as well, and negotiate the first right to adapt a work with your attribution, or for local use (or a stated number of times, as in a public performance). Negotiating limitations like giving away 1st publication rights  in an 'embargoed' timeframe can be a good compromise.

Working with Your Publisher

Think about how you would like to personally share your work and then ask for those rights from your publisher, thereby retaining rights while allowing the publisher to do what it needs to do in the industry. Also, some of the 'future' rights described above would not fall within the Fair Use Doctrine (i.e., systemmatic re-use), so negotiating future use is important and time-saving to your teaching.

You can accomplish new copyright agreements by simply crossing out contract language to meet your needs, or by using an Author Addendum that specifies what you want.  Sign and date your publisher's Copyright Transfer Agreement and note "subject to addendum."  (See the Case_addendum.)

New Publishing Models

By asking for broad rights, you have room to negotiate back to a reasonable compromise so both you and the publisher retain some rights. Addendum forms help authors with this process and are encouraging new practices in the publishing industry. Case and other academic institutions have developed  addendum documents that are helping to create more flexible publishing environments

Publishing models now include a growing repository movement, open access journals, hybrid environments like PLoS Clinical Trials, and independent publishers like BioMedCentral that provide immediate free access to peer-reviewed biomedical research. 

NIH requirements to submit NIH-funded research articles to PubMedCentral for public access within 12 months of journal publication also are important in author-publisher negotiations. Complying with the NIH Public Access Policy-Copyright Considerations and Options  discusses copyright and the  NIH Public Access Policy, compliance options, suggested cover letters and more. Joint White Paper, 2008, SPARC, Science Commons, ARL.

 More Information about Copyrights & Author Addenda, from Copyright@Case:

Citation Analysis on New Publishing Models

  • Citation Data/Charts: The OpCitProject: Open Citation Project-Reference Linking and Citation Analysis for Open Archives; 8/2009 report increased impact factors, reading preferences & repositories.
  • From ISI: Open Access Journals in the Thomson ISI Citation Databases.
  • Statistics: Publishers (1,241) in RoMEO (doubled since August 2009) have changed dramatically from limited expanded rights to immediate self-archiving of a journal article: 87% of scholarly journals allow some version;  27% of scholarly journals allow the pre-refereed version; 44% of scholarly journals allow the post-refereed version; 16% of scholarly journals allow the final .pdf; and after the embargo periods (6-24 months), 94% of scholarly journals allow self-archiving of the post-refereed or .pdf version.

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