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Authors' Rights

As an author, you hold exclusive copyright to your original work from the very moment the work is fixed in tangible form. At this point, you have complete legal authority over how the item may be used and shared. According to Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act, you have the exclusive right to

  • Reproduce the work

  • Prepare derivative works based upon the original work

  • Distribute copies of the work

  • Perform the work publicly

  • Display the work publicly

These rights belong to you until you transfer them to another party. Most frequently, this transfer happens when you sign a contract with a publisher for the commercial publication of your original work. The contract you sign with your publisher may allow you to retain limited non-exclusive rights, or it may remove all your rights. The publication contract will outline the rights you retain.

It is not necessary, however, to sign away your rights as an author in order to have something published. There are ways to preserve the rights you need and deserve as the original creator of the work and to honor the publisher’s desire to use your work for commercial reasons. You have options when it comes to publishing your work.

So What Are Your Options?

  • Accept the publisher's contract -- If the publication contract provided by the publisher is agreeable to you, simply accept the terms of the contract.
  • Negotiate with the publisher -- If some terms of the publisher's contract are acceptable but some are not, you can negotiate to have the unacceptable points modified or removed. In essence, you will be working with the publisher to create a new contract agreeable to both of you.
  • Add an author's addendum to the publisher's contract -- An addendum can be used to ensure you will retain certain rights to the material you created. Examples of addendums can be found here and here.
  • Publish your work in an open access journal -- Many open access journals are peer-reviewed and have excellent impact factors. Their content is free of charge to the user and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. 
  • Self publish -- You are always free to make your work available on your own terms, through posting on a personal web site, for example.
​​If you have questions about author rights, please contact the library