Author Rights in Scholarly Publishing and Open Access

Author Rights 

SPARC succinctly explains what author rights are: “When you decide to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal, you own the full copyrights to that article. If you publish in an open access journal, you retain your full copyrights. However, if you choose to publish in a traditional subscription access journal, you will be required to sign a form transferring some – or all – of your copyrights to that publisher.” 

An important part of the Open Access movement is the understanding that, as an author, you have rights to the work that you are creating. When an author publishes in an OA journal, they will generally retain the full rights to the article. These rights can include: 

  • the rights to reproduce, to distribute, to publicly perform, and to publicly display the Article in any medium for non-commercial purposes. 
  • the right to prepare derivative works from the Article. 
  • the right to authorize others to make any non-commercial use of the Article so long as Author receives credit as author and the journal in which the Article has been published is cited as the source of first publication of the Article. 

For more information, check out these additional readings and resources for authors’ rights: 

Used from the SPARC Author Addendum. Association of Research Libraries, Author Rights. 

Archiving Papers in a Repository 

If you have retained rights as an author to your work, one of the benefits might be the right to deposit your work in a subject or institutional repository. These are a great way to increase visibility to your work and possibly even increase your citations. 

Most publishers allow certain versions of a work to be added to a repository. This largely revolves around two important moments during the publication of a paper: peer review and publisher’s formatting. 

Most peer reviewed articles involve some sort of editing after receiving the peer reviews. That means there is a version of a paper before the author incorporates peer review revisions and a version after the author incorporates peer review revisions.  Commonly these are called: 

  • pre-print: Prior to peer review 
  • post-print (also known as the accepted author manuscript): After peer review edits are made. 

When the paper has been accepted for publication it goes to the publisher where they will add information such as logos, volume and issue number, pagination, and other journal specific formatting. This version is most often called the publisher’s version or the version of record. 

Looking at your copyright transfer agreement will give insight into whether you can post a version of your paper on an institutional repository. The website SHERPA/RoMEO can help identify the rights a particular journal offers for publishing in a repository.