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Scholarly Communication: Authors' Rights


As an author you retain copyright of your work as soon as the work is in a fixed, tangible medium. Copyright is a bundle of various rights that allows you as the holder to retain ownership and rights as to the use, dissemination, display, and modification of the work in digital or print format in connection with academic and professional activities. You are encouraged to anticipate your future needs and to retain the rights you may need in order to optimize dissemination of your research. In today’s digital world, the right to disseminate and reuse the work is almost as important as the content itself. Some of these rights include:

  • use part of the work as a basis for a future publication
  • send copies of the work to colleagues
  • comply with the NIH Public Access Policy or other funding agency policies
  • present the work at conference or meeting and give copies of the work to attendees
  • use a different or extended version of the work for a future publication
  • make copies of the work for personal use and educational use
  • self-archive the work in an institutional repository
  • use graphs, charts, and statistical data for a future publication
  • post the work on a laboratory or institutional web site on a restricted network
  • post the work on a laboratory or institutional web site on a publicly available network
  • use the work for educational use such as lecture notes or study guides
  • comply with public access mandates
  • deposit supplemental data from the work in an institutional or subject repository
  • place a copy of the work on electronic reserves or use for student course-packs
  • include the work in future derivative works
  • make an oral presentation of the work
  • include the work in a dissertation or thesis
  • use the work in a compilation of works or collected works
  • expand the work into a book form or book chapter
  • retain patent and trademark rights of processes or procedures contained in the work

SPARC Author Addendum

The SPARC Author Addendum is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles. The Author Addendum is a free resource developed by SPARC in partnership with Creative Commons <> and Science Commons, established non-profit organizations that offer a range of copyright options for many different creative endeavors.

The SPARC Author Rights brochure is available online in HTML and PDF.

Publisher Copyright Policies

You can determine a publisher's copyright policy in several ways:

  1. Review the publisher’s copyright agreement form of a specific journal to determine what rights a publisher allows authors to retain and stipulations that must be followed. Note that policies may vary among journals published by the same publisher.
  2. Use a website called Sherpa-Romeo to locate publisher copyright transfer agreements including summaries of permissions.
  3. Look under “Instructions for Authors” or “Copyright Information” on the journal web site. Many publishers provide detailed information for authors as to what uses are permitted under the publisher’s copyright policy for a given journal.

Additional Author Addenda

With the development of standardized author addenda, authors now have a standardized legal instrument that modifies the publisher's agreement and allows the author to keep key rights.  In addition to the SPARC Addendum, see:


Includes examples of individual institutions' addenda developed for their own researchers.

More resources include:

  • Resources for Authors  Rating
    Provides answers and guidance for authors who want to keep certain rights to their works when they publish.
  • Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine  Rating
    Helps authors generate a PDF form that can be attached to a journal publisher's agreement to ensure you retain certain rights.
  • Creative Commons  Rating
    Provides free tools that let authors, artists an educators mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry.