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Author's Rights

Things to Know

  • Unless it’s a work for hire, when you create a work, the copyright belongs to you and any co-authors.
  • Co-authors have equal rights in a work. A co-author can only give away their own rights. 
  • A co-author cannot prevent you from exercising your rights.
  • You have to voluntarily give up your copyright to someone else.
  • It’s possible to give away only some of your rights.
  • If you give away all of your rights, you have nothing left. The new rights holder can now stop you from using your work.
  • Sometimes when you give away your copyright, the new holder can license certain rights back to you.
  • You can negotiate with a publisher about the rights you give them when they publish your material.

Author Rights

The SPARC Author Rights Guide offers information for faculty about understanding author rights, managing publisher agreements, and using an addendum to comply with Open Access policies.

Publisher's Copyright Policies & Self-Archiving

SHERPA/RoMEO is a database collecting publisher policies related to copyright and self-archiving. RoMEO has collaborative relationships with many international partners who contribute time and effort to developing and maintaining the service.

Understanding your agreement

If you want to use a work you’ve already published, your publishing agreement (often called “Copyright Transfer Agreement”) will contain the guidelines for your use. Here are some things to look out for:

Document version

Publisher agreements often references one of three versions of a work:

  • Preprint - This is the version you submit to the publisher before peer review.
  • Postprint - This is the version after peer review, but before the publisher copyedits it.
  • Publisher PDF - This is the final copyedited, journal-ready version.

It’s very rare for a publisher to allow you to reuse the publisher PDF, but you may have usage rights to the preprint or postprint.


Often, publishers will restrict you from reusing your work for a set amount of time. Embargos generally run from the date of publication by the publisher. Most embargos range from 6 months to 2 years, but you should check your agreement to be sure.

Where you can publish/reuse

You should check your agreement to see where you are allowed to repost your work, but common places typically include a thesis or dissertation, a personal website, or an institutional repository.

Creative Commons

You can also publish your work under a Creative Commons (CC) license. Creative Commons licenses are a system of licenses designed to make your work more sharable and accessible. They come with a variety of different reserved rights levels. If you want to share your work more broadly and enable others to use your work, CC licenses are a good option.

Learn more about different Creative Commons licenses.