When you’re publishing a paper, how carefully do you read the publishing agreement? A publishing agreement, also known as a publishing contract or copyright transfer agreement, is a legal document between the publisher and author that explains who will own the rights of the work being published. If you envision sharing your article or creating derivative works from it, take time to review what’s stated in your publishing agreement. If copyright is transferred to the publisher, it may limit what you can do with your article without getting permission first. This may limit the reach and impact of your work.
By default, you are the copyright owner as soon as your work is fixed in a tangible form of expression, whether it’s written on a piece of paper or saved on a computer. Unless you’re publishing in an open access journal, publishers will often request that you transfer your copyright ownership to them. If you don’t agree with their publishing agreement or parts of it, you can use an addendum to negotiate the rights that are important to you.
If you’re not sure where to start, or what language to use, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Author Addendum is a well-known resource that’s freely available to use as is, or it can be modified to fit your needs. The SPARC Author Addendum as written would allow you to reproduce and distribute your article for non-commercial purposes and to make derivative works, and it gives you authorization to allow others to make non-commercial use of the article, all while providing attribution to you and the journal. Although the publisher may not agree to your entire addendum, they might agree to some of your modifications to the publishing agreement, such as giving you the rights to the postprint but not the final formatted version.
Another resource that can help you build an addendum is the Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine. It currently has four different agreement types (also known as addenda) to choose from and generates a PDF with your information and the selected agreement type.
While HSLS librarians cannot provide legal advice, we can assist with finding addenda based upon the rights you want to retain. If you have any questions or would like to meet with a librarian to discuss your project, contact HSLS Publishing Services.