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Author's Rights & Publishing Agreements: Publishing Agreements

This workshop will help authors gain information about the rights to their works and what to look for in publishing agreements.

What Does My Publisher Allow?

Want to post your work to your website or put it in an online repository like Digital Collections?

Check the publishing agreement you signed to see what is allowed.  Did you transfer all copyright or, just the right of first publication?

Remember to keep all publishing agreements that you have signed.  These are legal documents which detail your rights with respect to your work

Can't find the agreement you signed with the publisher? 

There are a couple of options:

1.  Sherpa/Romeo-  Use this site to find a summary of permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher's copyright transfer agreementNot every publisher is included here but, it is a good place to start.


2.  Website of the publisher-  Visit the website of the company who published the work.  They will usually have an "instructions for authors" section which includes information about the copyright transfer agreement.  Sometimes this information is found under "permissions/reprints" on the website. 

Which Version Can Be Used?

The following definitions are from Sherpa and will help to clarify how they define various versions

Pre-print and Post-print

"The terms pre-print and post-print are used to mean different things by different people. This can cause some confusion and ambiguity.

One usage of the term pre-print is to describe the first draft of the article - before peer-review, even before any contact with a publisher. This use is common amongst academics for whom the key modification of an article is the peer-review process.

Another use of the term pre-print is for the finished article, reviewed and amended, ready and accepted for publication - but separate from the version that is type-set or formatted by the publisher. This use is more common amongst publishers, for whom the final and significant stage of modification to an article is the arrangement of the material for putting to print.

Such diverse meanings can be confusing and can change the understanding of a copyright transfer agreement.

To try to clarify the situation, this listing characterises pre-prints as being the version of the paper before peer review and post-prints as being the version of the paper after peer-review, with revisions having been made.

This means that in terms of content, post-prints are the article as published.  However, in terms of appearance this might not be the same as the published     article, as publishers often reserve for themselves their own arrangement of type-setting and formatting. Typically, this means that the author cannot use the publisher-generated .pdf file, but must make their own .pdf version for submission to a repository.

Having said that, some publishers insist that authors use the publisher-generated .pdf - seemingly because the publishers want their material to be seen as a professionally produced .pdf that fits with their own house-style."


Many publishers do not allow posting of the PUBLISHED version of articles on websites or in online archives/repositories. 

Best strategy is to keep a copy of the final (post review) text.  This has all the data and information you want to impart.  It just lacks the publishers formatting for the journal. 

Scholars are most often interested in communicating and sharing their ideas, not necessiarly the publisher's formatting.  Keeping that final version will often enable greater dissimination by the author. 




How to Protect Your Copyrights

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is a great source of information on author's rights, including this AUTHOR'S ADDENDUM . This addendum is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows authors to keep key rights.

For Example: To secure sufficient rights to deposit the work in  Digital  Collections@TxState and to reuse their own work, the author could modify the language  of the standard publishing agreement as follows:

“Notwithstanding the above language, I reserve the right to use this work in my teaching and research, for my colleagues at the Texas State University to use this work in their teaching and research, and I also reserve the right to place an electronic copy of this work on a publicly accessible web site.”

Bernard Becker Medical Library, Washington University School of Medicine, provides an informative list of phrases to look for in publisher copyright agreement forms. The document lists examples of rights and stipulations in various copyright agreement forms.

A Word About Predatory Publishers

Some Open Access publishers have questionable reputations and credentials and often charge authors to publish with their journals.  A list of questionable journals can be found here. Please research the reputation of any journal carefully before submitting your article.

More Questions about Copyright?

Please contact Stephanie Towery, University Copyright Officer  for further information. 

Scholarly Communications Team

Legal Disclaimer

This guide is designed to share information on author's rights,copyright and related topics. This guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.