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Georgia Southern Commons

Author Rights & Self-Archiving

Your copyrights are a valuable asset that should be protected throughout the publication process. Whether you are vetting potential publishers or reviewing the terms under which you previously published a work, take the time to understand their copyright and reuse policies, and negotiate to protect you right to self-archive and share your work. See below for more about researchers' rights as authors, including our slideshow overview below.

Copyright & the Publication Process

As an author, you hold copyright in your work from the moment your original expression is fixed in tangible form. “Copyright” refers to a bundle of copyrights, which are separate and distinct. You can  retain, transfer, or license any one of these rights, or all of them. 

For anything to be published, copyrights must be exercised, either by the copyright holder or by a licensee. As a bundle of rights, the “sticks” in the bundle can be transferred or licensed, exclusively or non-exclusively, to one or more parties. Ideally, publishing should seek a balance between what rights are fairly transferred or licensed to the publisher, and what rights are fairly retained by the author.

Most publishers use one of two legal mechanisms for transferring copyright for, or otherwise licensing, your work for publication. Policies vary significantly by publisher, and rights typically are licensed back to the author according to the article version.

Publishers are most likely to allow you to self-archive and distribute a pre-print. However, because this version does not include revisions made as the result of any editorial or peer-review process, this version is least desirable for sharing. Publishers may also allow you to self-archive and distribute a post-print.  Because the content of the post-print is largely the same as the published version of your work, you are strongly encouraged to archive a post-print if permitted. Publishers are least likely to allow you to self-archive and distribute the published version of your work. However, you may be able to archive the published version of your work, and then distribute it after a specified embargo period.

Techniques for Protecting your Copyrights with Publishers

Many publishers are willing to negotiate the terms of their copyright transfer agreements, or permit use of a license to publish instead. Regardless, it is important for you to review and negotiate the terms of publication with the publisher prior to signing any documents. A license to publish written in the publisher's favor may restrict your rights just as much as a copyright transfer agreement.

The first step to protecting your copyright is to review copyright policies as part of vetting potential publishers or publications for your work. You are strongly encouraged to consult with your Library Liaison during this process. During the vetting process, consider the following steps:

  • Search the SHERPA/RoMEO database for the publisher or publication to see their current copyright and archiving policies.
  • Obtain a copy of the publisher’s standard copyright transfer agreement or license to publish, and use the library’s Copyright Transfer Agreement Checklist to review its conditions.
  • Contact the publisher to see if they permit use of a copyright addendum, alternative agreement language, or a license to publish.
  • Contact your library liaison for help.

The second step to protecting your copyright occurs when you submit your work to a publisher. Some publishers now require "click-through" agreements which the author completes at the time of manuscript submission, thus binding the author to certain conditions if the work is accepted for publication. If this is the case, you should review the click-through agreement as carefully as you would any copyright transfer agreement or license to publish. If you have concerns about the content of the click-through agreement, you may need to contact the publisher prior to submitting your work.

The third step to protecting your copyright occurs after your work has been accepted for publication. When preparing for publication, consider the following steps:

  • Request to add an addendum that returns self-archiving and other desired rights to you. Numerous addenda exist for this purpose, including the SPARC Author Addendum or Science Commons’ Copyright Addendum Engine.
  • If the publisher will not accept an addendum, request that the terms of your agreement or license be modified to permit self-archiving. See Cornell University’s list of example modifications and talk to the Office of Legal Affairs.
  • Consider licensing your work using a Creative Commons license, or the publisher’s already-prepared license to publish.
  • If you have received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you must submit all post-prints to PubMed Central within twelve months of publication. Any publisher agreement you sign must comply with this requirement. For more information, visit the NIH website.
  • Carefully review any document that includes a “non-compete” clause or constrains your rights with regard to derivative works.
  • Negotiate copyright after your manuscript has been accepted. Just as you need to publish, the publisher needs your content!

Remember, until you sign any copyright transfer agreements or licenses to publish, you retain exclusive copyright over your work. If you cannot accept the conditions a publisher will place on you in order to publish your work, consider a different publisher.

Techniques for Self-Archiving and Distributing Previously Published Works

For previously published works, maximize visibility and impact by archiving and sharing these works to the extent your copyright agreement or license allows:

  • If you have retained a copy of your agreement/license, use the library’s Copyright Agreement Checklist to review its conditions.
  • If you have not retained a copy, search the SHERPA/RoMEO database for your publisher or publication to see their current copyright and archiving policies.
  • If your publisher or publication is not covered by SHERPA/RoMEO, check the publisher’s website.
  • If need be, contact the publisher for a copy of your agreement/license, as well as additional information about their copyright policies.
  • Contact your library liaison for help.

If your agreement/license permits self-archiving and distribution of a Pre-Print, Post-Print, or Published Version, let the library upload a copy to Georgia Southern Commons. Doing so creates additional discovery and access points for your work; allows other researchers to discover your ideas faster by removing access barriers; and promotes you, your program, and the University along with your work. If you currently do not have authority, you may petition the copyright holder for permission or seek to recover your copyright:

  • If you know from searching SHERPA/RoMEO or visiting the publisher's website that the publisher offers different copyright options than when you originally published your article, request that the publisher update your agreement or license.
  • Request that the publisher add an addendum to your existing agreement or license that returns self-archiving or other desired rights to you. Numerous such addenda exist and can be used for this purpose, including the SPARC Author Addendum or Science Commons' Copyright Addendum Engine. See this list from Simmons College for additional examples of author addenda.
  • If the publisher will not accept a contract addendum, request that the terms of your agreement or license be modified to permit self-archiving. See this document from Cornell University for examples of alternative language that you can propose.
  • If the publisher will not work with you to restore your right to self-archive your preferred version of your work, then you may be able to reclaim your copyright by sending a termination notice to the publisher and registering the termination with the United States Copyright Office. For more information, see this document on Termination of Transfers and Licenses under 17 U.S.C. §203. However, this may result in retraction or withdrawal of your article from the original publication.

Archiving Unpublished Works and Works for Hire

If your work is "made for hire," then you may need to obtain permission to self-archive your work. Please consult with your supervisor. For Georgia Southern University documents explicitly prepared for public dissemination, such permission is implicit in final approval and distribution of the document.

Self-Archiving Your Work in Georgia Southern Commons and Georgia Southern Scholars

For more information on licensing your work for archiving and distribution in Georgia Southern Commons, see this page.

Learn More about Author Rights & Self-Archiving

See this slideshow overview about Author Rights & Self-Archiving, or request a presentation by the Georgia Southern Commons Team.

Additional Resources

Contact Info


For help, contact the GS Commons Team at A team member will respond as soon as possible during regular business hours.