This section provides information on author rights and related resources to assist authors with management of their rights.


What Should Authors Do?
  • Anticipate the ways you wish to reuse and disseminate your work
  • Use a publisher that allows authors to retain certain rights or is willing to negotiate
  • Review the publisher’s copyright agreement form before signing to confirm that the anticipated uses and rights are noted on the form
  • Attach an addendum if necessary, in order to retain rights
  • Keep a record of all signed documents
  • Comply with any publisher restrictions on use

Copyright law gives an author of a work a bundle of exclusive rights to do and authorize others to do the following with the work:

  • To reproduce the work
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public
  • To prepare derivative works based on the work
  • To display the work publicly
  • To perform the work publicly

Under the traditional academic publication model an author typically transfers all copyright interests to a publisher. If authors relinquish all their copyright interests to the publisher, the author loses the ability to use his or her own work without permission from the publisher.

Because of advances in digital technology, many publishers offer authors options for management of their copyright with flexible use conditions that meet the needs of both parties. Authors no longer have to transfer all their rights in a single bundle in exchange for publication.

The WU IP Policy is the mechanism through which works created by University constituents may be be made available for public use. It allocates rights, specifies obligations, and outlines steps for compliance.

These pages primarily address copyright, and not other rights that a creator may possess. For example, an article in the natural or physical sciences may disclose a patentable invention or other discovery. If the author does not file a patent application within one year of publishing the article that discloses the invention, then the author will not be able to obtain a patent on the invention. If you think an article you are writing might disclose a patentable invention, contact the Office of Technology Management. OTM facilitates the transfer of inventions and discoveries to private companies for the benefit of society while generating income to support research and education.

Further Resources:


What Rights Should Authors Retain?

Many journals allow authors to self-archive their work. Use the SHERPA/RoMEO directory to help locate a self-archiving policy by journal title.

Authors are encouraged to anticipate their future use of the work and retain any or all of the rights they may need to achieve their academic and professional goals. Authors may want to retain rights to do the following:

  • Make copies of the work for educational use, including class notes, study guides or electronic reserves
  • Use part of the work as a basis for a future publication
  • Send copies of the work to colleagues
  • Present the work at conference or meeting and give copies of the work to attendees
  • Use a different or extended version of the work for a future publication
  • Deposit the work in an institutional or funding agency repository
  • Post the work on a laboratory or institutional web site on a restricted network or publicly available network
  • Include the work in future derivative works, including a dissertation or thesis
  • Use the work in a compilation of works or collected works
  • Expand the work into a book form or book chapter

Note: Authors who receive funding from agencies that have public access mandate policies must retain the right to comply with these policies. Examples of public access mandates are the NIH Public Access Policy and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Policy on Public Access to Publications.

Further Perspective:


How To Negotiate and Retain Rights

First, it is important to determine what rights you want to retain to accomplish your academic and professional goals.

“Be a responsible steward of your intellectual property. Retain vital rights for you and your readers while authorizing publishing activities that benefit everyone by making scholarship more widely available.”

—Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)

Second, review the publishing agreement presented by the publisher to determine the rights the publisher is seeking from the author. Publishers often use very broad and expansive language to accomplish a transfer of copyright interests. You may need to negotiate with the publisher to assure that your intended future use of the work is permissible under the publishing agreement. Publishers often post copyright policies on the internet; however, be sure that the agreement expressly states the rights you seek to retain. A policy is not a binding agreement and can be changed at the discretion of the publisher.

In many cases, the publisher or the Editor-in-Chief support the author’s future intended use and are willing to negotiate author’s rights. There are several methods to negotiate the terms of a publishing agreement.

  1. Because publishers use form agreements and resist changes to its forms, it may be necessary to attach an addendum to the publishing agreement which expressly sets forth the rights retained by the author. See Addenda for Authors below.
  2. Some publishers allow authors to insert in the text of the agreement the rights they wish to retain. The following is an example:

“If there are any elements in this manuscript for which the author(s) hold and want to retain copyright, please specify: __________________________.”
[Physical Therapy, Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association]

  1. Some authors amend the publisher agreement form by crossing out the specific clauses that they do not agree with and inserting by hand the rights they wish to retain. Before doing so, review the publisher’s agreement form to make sure that there is no clause like the following that would create a conflict within the agreement:

SIGN HERE FOR COPYRIGHT TRANSFER: I hereby certify that I am authorized to sign this document either in my own right or as an agent for my employer, and have made no changes to the current valid document. . .”
[ACS Journal of Natural Products]

Any changes made directly on the form agreement must include the initials of the author and the initials of an authorized representative of the publisher, which are placed immediately adjacent to the handwritten or typewritten change.  Any changes made and initialed by the author will have no legal effect without the approval of the publisher.


How to Locate Publisher Copyright Policies

  • Pre-print: Manuscript as submitted by the author for peer review.
  • Post-print: Manuscript that includes changes made by the author as a result of the peer review process.
  • Final Publisher Version: The publishers’ final version of the manuscript and is different from the post-print version, due to layout, pagination, location of graphics, etc.

Publishers’ copyright polices are often located on the publishers’ web sites under “Instructions for Authors” or “Copyright Information.” Many publishers provide detailed information for authors as to what uses are permitted under the publisher’s copyright policy for a given journal. Keep in mind that some publishers have not updated their copyright agreement forms to correspond with the information posted on its web site. Authors are encouraged to carefully review the publisher copyright agreement before signing to confirm that the anticipated uses and rights or the rights retained by the author are expressly stated on the agreement form. If not, authors should seek clarification from the publisher before signing and seek a revision of the agreement. Publishers may send a new copyright agreement form or send an addendum.

If there is no information available on the publisher copyright agreement form or on the publisher’s web site, contact the publisher or Editor-in-Chief of the journal to seek clarification. In many instances, publishers have not updated their web site content or the publisher copyright agreement form but are amenable to changes to the agreement to clarify the relative rights of each party. If the publisher is unwilling to work with you, consider locating an alternative publisher that would be willing to negotiate the terms of the copyright.


Addenda for Authors

An addendum is an attachment to a contract or form that modifies, clarifies, or adds to the contract. There are a variety of addenda available for authors to use to retain rights that are not explicitly stated on the publisher copyright agreement form. If authors attach an addendum, add the statement “Subject to Attached Addendum” next to your signature on the publisher copyright agreement form.

Examples of Author Addenda:

  • Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine (from Science Commons)
  • SPARC Author Addendum to Publication Agreement
  • NIH Addendum Language
    Authors are strongly encouraged to seek confirmation from publishers before submitting a manuscript for peer review to verify that a publisher will allow authors to retain the right to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy. For authors who are required to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy, NIH provides suggested language to use as a means of retaining the right to comply:

    “Journal acknowledges that Author retains the right to provide a copy of the final manuscript to the NIH upon acceptance for Journal publication, for public archiving in PubMed Central as soon as possible but no later than 12 months after publication by Journal.”

    According to NIH:

    “Authors own the original copyrights to materials they write. Consistent with individual arrangements with authors’ employing institutions, authors often transfer some or all of these rights to the publisher when the journal agrees to publish their article. Some publishers may ask authors to transfer copyrights for a manuscript when it is first submitted to a journal for review. Authors should work with the publisher before any rights are transferred to ensure that all conditions of the NIH Public Access Policy can be met. Authors should avoid signing any agreements with publishers that do not allow the author to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.”

    Further NIH Public Access Policy Resources:

  • Federal Funding Addendum
    Some authors who receive non-NIH federal funding support may want to retain the right to submit their work to a government-sponsored digital repository or a subject-based repository or an institutional repository such as Washington University Open Scholarship or Digital Commons@Becker at Washington University Becker Medical Library.

    “Journal acknowledges that Author retains the right to deposit a copy of the final manuscript (peer-reviewed version), upon acceptance of Journal publication, for public archiving in a government-sponsored digital repository or institutional repository as soon as possible but no later than 12 months after publication by Journal.”

  • Author Addenda at other sites.


What Should Authors Do if a Publisher Does Not Accept an Addendum?

There are several options if a publisher does not accept an author’s addendum.

  1. Contact the publisher or the Editor in Chief to find out why the addendum was rejected.
  2. Find an alternative publisher that allows authors to retain rights as needed. Contact Cathy Sarli or to find alternative publishers.
  3. Negotiate with the publisher to resolve your differences.


Becker Library and Washington University Libraries Services in Support of Author Rights

  • Assist with author rights issues
  • Review a copyright agreement form
  • Provide contact information for publishers
  • Contact journal publishers to obtain information/permission on your behalf
  • Locate publisher copyright policies and stipulations
  • Help authors comply with publisher stipulations
  • Provide a Digital Object Identified number (DOI) for an article
  • Advise authors on strategies to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy
  • Provide a listing of peer-reviewed journals specific to your field of study that allow authors to retain rights
  • Submit your NIH-funded research article to PubMed Central on your behalf
  • Group presentations on author rights and related issues at a location of your choice or at a WU Library
  • Personal consultations on author rights and related issues at a location of your choice or at a WU Library

NOTE: The Office of the Vice Chancellor and General Counsel (OGC) manages the legal affairs of Washington University in St. Louis. Libraries staff offer general information but do not provide legal advice specific to your situation.