Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University


Managing copyright ownership to your publications to ensure your papers can be open on CRO

Many publishers allow authors to place the final accepted draft of their paper on an institutional repository. As a rule they don't allow the published version of the paper to be on CRO unless it is an open access publisher.

It is sometimes possible to negotiate with publishers to retain some or all of your rights if required to make your work open access as soon as it published (ie with no embargo). CRO staff check the publisher requirements before making a work open access.

Check the publisher's policy on self-archiving

While journal publishers usually ask authors to assign copyright to them many now allow self-archiving in an institutional repository and others will grant clearance if a request is made. It is advisable to clarify the publisher's policy on self-archiving before submitting your article for peer review. The knowledge could influence your decision about how to manage your copyright.

The information may be on the journal's website. Look for links called 'Notes to contributors' or 'Information for authors'. The information could be in the publishing contract. Read it carefully before signing. Here is an example of what to look for:

"The Author(s) shall have the following rights: The right to post and update the Article on eprint servers as long as files prepared and/or formatted by APS or its vendors are not used for that purpose. Any such posting made or updated after acceptance of the Article for publication shall include a link to the online abstract in the APS journal or to the entry page of the journal." (excerpt from the American Physical Society's transfer of Copyright form)

The SHERPA website provides a list of publisher policies:

  • Publishers in GREEN support self-archiving of the post-refereed version.
  • Publishers in BLUE support self-archiving of the pre-refereed version and the post-refereed version under the conditions stated.
  • While the others do not formally support self-archiving, they often agree if a direct request is made.

If the publisher allows authors to retain the right to self-archive or if assignment of copyright is not required, there is no need to go on to the next step. You can deposit a copy of your paper in CRO.

If not...Amend the publication agreement or deposit the preprint version.

If the publisher does not allow authors to self-archive postprints you could adopt one of the following strategies:

Best strategy: Amend the publishing agreement to reserve some rights

If the existing contract does not specifically grant authors the right to self-archive a copy of the postprint (post-refereed version of the work) it may be possible to cross out the relevant section of the existing agreement and insert a statement about the rights you wish to retain. For example:

The author transfers to {Publisher} the exclusive rights comprised in the copyright of the work, except that the author retains the following:

  • The right to self-archive a copy of the work in the author's institutional repository;
  • The right to make copies of all or part of the work for the author's use in teaching;
  • The right to use, after publication, all or part of this material in works by the author in print or electronic format.

Contact the publisher or journal editor to let them know what you are doing and why.

Alternative strategy: Retain your copyright and grant the publisher a 'licence to publish'

You can choose to retain ownership of the copyright and grant the publisher an exclusive licence for the first formal publication of the work (in print, digital, or some other form).

Researchers who are employed by the US Government routinely use this strategy. They cannot assign copyright to publishers because the Government retains the copyright. It is worth noting that the publishers continue to publish articles authored by these researchers.

In addition to this you could grant the publisher a non-exclusive licence for at least the following purposes:

  • Subsequent republication of the work;
  • Reproduction in course packs;
  • Reformatted publication (e.g. works transferred from print to microform and digital forms);
  • Distribution through document delivery services;
  • Public performance and display of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, motion pictures, and other audiovisual works.

By granting non-exclusive rights to the publisher the author retains the right to do any of these things without needing publisher permission.

For more information on licensing, see the Australian Copyright Council's information sheet: Assigning and Licensing Rights.

If none of these work: Self-archive a copy of the preprint (pre peer review) version

Unfortunately, some publishers are very resistant to the arguments in favour of repositories and refuse to negotiate on this issue. With these publishers self-archiving the preprint may be the only option available.

Before a paper is submitted to a journal for peer review the copyright belongs to the author. Hence, the author is always free to self-archive the preprint at this point in time. In fact, some researchers routinely self-archive their preprints. Physicists have been doing this for many years.

Some publishers may insist that self-archived preprints are removed once the paper has been accepted for publication. Other publishers may be prepared to allow the preprint to remain. This varies between disciplines and between publishers within a discipline.

If the published paper is significantly different (because the original draft was revised following peer review), you could attach a "corrigenda" file to the preprint, outlining the differences.

More information on strategies for dealing with open access and copyright issues.