University of Oregon

Copyright Transfer Agreements

Most academic journals require that authors transfer copyright ownership to the publisher as a condition of publication. Authors are asked to sign the agreement after their article is accepted. After the copyright transfer, the publisher is essentially the legal author of the work, and has full control over its further use (making copies, creating derivative works, quoting from it, etc.).

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A journal copyright transfer typically cannot abrogate any previous licenses an author has made, and may include a new license that allows the original author a few rights to use the work. However, most UO authors will find that they have given up more rights than they expect or wish to. It's possible to negotiate the terms of that publishing contract.

The first step is to know what rights you really want to retain. For example, you probably want to be able to use your own work in your teaching, to distribute copies of the work to colleagues, to reuse figures or quote from it in future works, and to make a version of your work publicly accessible, perhaps in the UO's Scholars' Bank or a disciplinary repository like arXiv. If your work is grant-funded, then the funding agency may make additional requirements that in turn imply that you need to retain sufficient legal rights to comply.

The second step is to make a counter-offer to the publisher rather than simply signing the copyright transfer agreement.  You'll typically do so by including an author's addendum in your transfer agreement. If the publisher responds by rejecting the addendum, you can negotiate, and in a few cases where the stakes are high may even want to obtain legal advice.

For more detail on how to proceed, see:

     
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