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Publishing Your Scholarly Output: Protecting Your Rights

Resources and support for scholars who have an article to publish.

Authors Own Their Copyright (at least to start out)

Anything with an an element of originality that you write down or otherwise store or transmit is copyrighted automatically. Authors are the owners of the copyright of their articles (at least until they transfer that copyright) which is why it is important to determine at the outset who is an author and who is only a co-author/contributor.

Read the Author Agreement To Learn Your Rights After Publishing

Traditionally, when you published something, you would transfer the copyright to the publisher and they would handle the fees and paperwork for registering the copyright and defending it against infringement. The advantage of this older system is that it's less work for the authors who may not have the time or expertise to handle such matters. The disadvantage is that the journal/publisher owned the copyright and could dictate what, if anything, the author(s) could do with their own work. Some journals even prohibit sharing copies of your own article with colleagues or using it in instruction. 

More and more journals now allow authors to retain copyright ownership of their own work, either by default or as an option. (They may charge an Author Fee.) Read the Author Agreement to find out if you are responsible for registering your copyright and potentially defending it against infringement in court. Registering copyright is a fairly straightforward and affordable piece of paperwork, but copyright court cases may be a burden you don't want to assume. 

The big advantage to retaining your copyright is that you are free to use your work as you see fit. You probably will have to give the journal a license that ensures their exclusive publication rights in certain media, regions, and for a certain amount of time. Again, read the Author Agreement. But aside from that, you will be able to give copies to your colleagues, embed it in your online courses or hand it out to students in a face to face classroom, and self-archive.

Self-Archiving in a Repository

The right to self-archive is the right to store your article and make it accessible in a public online format. This could be your personal website, a commercial website like ResearchGate, a Subject/Disciplinary Repository like arXiv or CORE, or your institutional repository.

SUNY Empire's institutional Repository is a subdivision of SOAR - the SUNY Open Access Repository.

Repositories provide several advantages:

  • they guarantee long-term preservation and access to your work - even if the journal should go defunct.
  • they provide access to anyone with an Internet connection, for free, without a login, and without regard to where in the world they live or whether they are affiliated with an institution. This tends to increase the number of times your work is cited, and is a benefit to society. 
  • They are searchable with easy to use public search tools like Google Scholar. This increases the likelihood of your work being found and used.
  • unless you specify otherwise, your work is still under copyright and users can not make or distribute their own copies, or create derivative works.

Read your Author Agreement ot know whether you are entitled to self-archive your pre-print (the version before peer review) or the final version of your article.

The SPARC Author Addendum

If you want to retain your copyright and the standard Author Agreement for your journal doesn't have that as an option, you can propose adding the SPARC Author Addendum to your Agreement. This is some legal boilerplate that has been formulated to protect your rights while being acceptable to publishers and legally valid. You can select which authorial rights you want it to reserve for you that you would ordinarily not be allowed ot do with your own work without paying your publisher:

  • to use your work in the courses you teach and in your future research
  • to create derivative works
  • to self-archive in a repository