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Copyright and Fair Use: Author's Rights

A primer on the U.S. Copyright Act and Fair Use.

Preserve Your Rights

Preserve Rights to Your Own Work

Do not automatically sign the publisher's "Copyright Transfer Agreement."

Use the Addendum To Publication Agreements For CIC Authors (.doc)  or the SPARC Author Addendum  when you submit a publication to a publisher.  Find out more about UIC's support of the CIC addendum.

Alternatively, you can alter the publishing contract by crossing out the original exclusive transfer language in the publication contract that your publisher provides and replace it with text such as the following: The author grants to the Publisher exclusive first publication rights in the Work, and further grants a non-exclusive license for other uses of the Work for the duration of its copyright in all languages, throughout the world, in all media. The Publisher shall include a notice in the Work saying "© [Author's Name]. Readers of this article may copy it without the copyright owner's permission, if the author and publisher are acknowledged in the copy and copy is used for educational, not-for-profit purposes.”   For more information see: Non-Exclusive Use,  Author's Rights, Tout de Suite and SPARC's Author Rights

Author's Rights

Some publishers require you to sign away all your rights to your intellectual property in order to have your research published. These contracts are usually referred to as a "Copyright Transfer Agreement" or "Publication Agreement."  Negotiate with publishers to unbundle your rights in order to retain some or all control over your intellectual property.  By unbundling your rights, you can retain certain rights, such as the abilitie to post your work to the public Internet or to use your research in a class setting.  If you don't, you may lose all control over further reproduction or dissemination of your work. You may need to seek the publisher's permission to use your own work in a course packet, or to post it on your personal website or in an institutional repository. Further, your institution's library is often forced to pay prohibitively high prices to buy back access to the work that you freely gave to the publisher. Thus, you and your institution could find yourselves locked out from your own published research. 

Controlling access to your work makes a lot of sense for publishers, many of whom are realizing huge profits by doing so, but increasing publisher control of intellectual property represents a grave threat to the scholarly communication system. As a scholar working in a milieu where the rewards of publishing are impact and prestige rather than personal monetary gain, you presumably want the largest possible audience for your work, and the ability to disseminate it however you see fit. Signing over your intellectual property rights is often at odds with these goals.

By retaining your rights, you will be permitted to:

  • Maintain the right to disseminate your work
  • Maintain the right to use your work in your classes
  • Maintain the right to post your work on your own website
  • Maintain the right to post and archive your work in your Institutional Repository
  • Reserve the right to post the pre-refereed or even post-refereed version of your paper
  • Allow for the largest possible audience

Read more this topic in "An Introduction to Publication Agreements for Authors"

Additional Information

Check Publishers' Policies

The SHERPA RoMEO database provides a way to check publishers' policies on copyright and self-archiving. Before submitting to a particular publisher, check here to see how you will be able to use your work before and after publication. For example, you can find out if you can post pre-prints (pre-refeered version) or post-prints (post-refeered version) in a publically accessible archive.

More on Author's Rights


  • The author is the copyright holder. As the author of a work you are the copyright holder unless and until you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement.
  • Assigning your rights matters. Normally, the copyright holder possesses the exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and modification of the original work. An author who has transferred copyright without retaining these rights must ask permission unless the use is one of the statutory exemptions in copyright law.
  • The copyright holder controls the work. Decisions concerning use of the work, such as distribution, access, pricing, updates, and any use restrictions belong to the copyright holder. Authors who have transferred their copyright without retaining any rights may not be able to place the work on course Web sites, copy it for students or colleagues, deposit the work in a public online archive, or reuse portions in a subsequent work. That’s why it is important to retain the rights you need.
  • Transferring copyright doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The law allows you to transfer copyright while holding back rights for yourself and others. This is the compromise that the SPARC Author Addendum helps you to achieve. 



  • Retain the rights you want
  • Use and develop your own work without restriction
  • Increase access for education and research
  • Receive proper attribution when your work is used
  • If you choose, deposit your work in an open online archive where it will be permanently and openly accessible


  • Obtain a non-exclusive right to publish and distribute a work and
    receive a financial return
  • Receive proper attribution and citation as journal of first publication
  • Migrate the work to future formats and include it in collections

The above text comes from SPARCCreative Commons Attribution 3.0 License


If the publisher still will not accept your changes…

  • Consider the changes they will accept.
  • Consider publishing the work elsewhere.
  • Consider publishing the work in an open access journal.
  • Publish your work as you originally planned with the original publisher.

In the end, the choice is yours. Please make it an informed choice.