The agreement you sign with your publisher will determine who holds any exclusive and non-exclusive rights to your work. Traditionally, academic publishers required a complete assignment of your rights in exchange for publishing your works. With the continuing development of open access publications and the increasing awareness on the part of academic authors of the importance of retaining some rights in their work, some publishers have begun to accept negotiated agreements with academic authors under which the authors retain some rights of distribution and republication.

When you receive an agreement from a publisher, you should read the contract carefully to determine what rights you are being asked to give up and what rights you will be retaining. You should also not hesitate to negotiate any provisions which are particularly important to you. Among the methods you can use to negotiate are direct communication with the publisher, direct modification of the publication agreement by lining out objectionable terms and adding preferred terms through interlineation, and the attachment of an addendum with appropriate language.

SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, has developed a standard addendum for academic authors that retains rights to reproduce and distribute the article for non-commercial purposes, to prepare derivative works from the article, to authorize others to use the article for non-commercial purposes so long as proper citation and attribution is given, to post the article on personal or institutional websites, and to comply with the access provisions required by any grants funding the article. A copy of this addendum can be found here: SPARC Addendum to Publication Agreement. Likewise, SPARC has an addendum generator which can create addenda with different terms, if desired.

Moral Rights

In the context of academic publishing, moral rights refer to the rights of attribution due to an author and the right of the author to prevent changes or modifications to the work that could result in harm to the author’s personal or professional reputation. In many countries, authors cannot waive their moral rights in their works; the United States, however, does not protect moral rights under copyright law, with the exception of certain rights given to visual artists.

Recently, some publication agreements have included not only assignments of copyrights but also assignments or waivers of the authors’ moral rights. Authors should review publication agreements carefully to ensure their moral rights remain intact. Waiver of an author’s moral rights could lead to such situations as modifications of the material without the consent of the author and republication of the material without attribution to the author.