Your scholarship represents years of hard work, so be an active steward of your intellectual achievement. Consult this guide before you sign any publisher's publication agreement, and know which publication rights you want to retain.
You are a copyright owner. Any work in a fixed, tangible form of expression belongs to the creator (except for a few limited cases, such as works made for hire) and is automatically protected by copyright. This means that, early on, you own the copyright to your articles, chapters, etc.
However, when you sign a publishing agreement, you may be transferring your copyright to another person or entity. It's important to know that:
Publishing agreements are legal contracts. They are negotiable.
Copyright is often referred to as a "bundle" of rights. The UT Libraries' copyright page has basic information about the four rights that make up copyright.
A copyright owner can give anyone particular permissions to their work. A publisher needs only the copyright owner's permission to reproduce and distribute the work in order to publish it. The publisher does not need to be the copyright holder in order to publish your work. Consider this statement from Kevin L. Smith, J.D., and David R. Hanson, J.D., in Copyright and Author's Rights: A Briefing Paper:
"Some publishers use a 'license to publish' agreement instead of a full transfer of rights... Even when publishers initially demand a transfer of rights, many have already-prepared 'license to publish' agreements available if the author requests it."
As a result of many funders' public access policies, publishers are regularly accommodating requests to amend or alter traditional copyright transfer agreements. And, with several universities passing public access or open access policies at their institutions (Harvard, University of California system), publishers are increasingly familiar with fielding author requests to amend default publication agreements.
So, you aren't the first person to ask for a change in publication agreement terms.
First, consider what you want to be able to do with your work without having to ask the publisher's permission.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
You are free to reuse original material on this guide if you credit Rachel Caldwell, University of Tennessee Libraries; however, much of the information on this page comes from other sources. Check the permissions you need to reuse any material that comes from other sources.
The author of this page in not a lawyer and the information provided does not constitute legal advice.