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Scholarly Publishing

Important information for faculty and student authors

Your Research, Your Rights

Author Rights

Publishers often ask for your copyright when you submit articles for publication. You CAN grant publishers the rights they need while keeping your intellectual property. Consider Open Access journals or use the SPARC addendum

Author Identities

You have the right to have your name associated with your work. Ensure your that research is associated with you and not with someone with a similar name by establishing an ORCID.


Your work is protected by copyrighted immediately, literally as soon as your finger hits the keyboard. Copyright protection for your works is the life of the author plus 70 years. As a researcher it's important to understand the rights of the copyright owner as distinct from rights of the creator and works for hire.

Creative Commons

A Creative Commons license is a way to keep your copyright (ownership) while proactively granting others the ability to use your work such as using a graph or photograph of yours in another work. There are different types of Creative Commons licenses depending on whether or not you want to allow things such as commercial use. 

Open Access:

Open Access is a way to make the results of results of research available to everyone without requiring a subscription or other form of payment.

Who are you?

Many people have similar names and names can change.  Make sure that your research is identified with you by establishing an ORCID and using it across platforms.  When it comes to establishing your h factor you'll be glad you did.

Major repositories and publisher systems. e.g. Web of Science, have systems to disambiguate authors. The major ones include:

ORCID  vendor-neutral author identification, intended to work across platforms

ResearcherID is Thomson Reuters unique identifier and is used in Web of Science.

Scopus Author Identifier: (Elsevier) unique researcher identification. 

arXiv Author ID (Cornell)

eRA Commons Username  (National Institutes of Health)

OpenID this is a relatively new identification and appears to be aimed at identities in the commercial space, not intended to be used as to disambiguate between researchers and scholars.  

Who owns your work?

It is common practice for publishers to ask for your copyright as part of accepting an article for publication. Giving away your copyright means you no longer own that intellectual property.  You may no longer have the right to put the article on course reserve without paying royalties, post a copy on your web site, share copies with members a research team.  All those activities--making and distributing copies--are rights that belong to the copyright owner.  If you give your copyright to the publisher, the right to make, share and distribute copies belongs to them. 

Some publishers will grant you some permissions such as allowing you to include the article in an anthology. Publishers do not need to own the copyright in order to publish. They need an exclusive, time-bound, license to copy and distribute. Those two permissions allow publishers to distribute your article and protect their revenue from subscriptions. 

Some open access publishers let the author keep their copyright and assign the journal a Creative Commons license, others ask for a copyright assignment but explicitly publish their articles with a Creative Commons licensing for sharing, meaning copies can be easily obtained, or the article can be re-published or deposited in an institutional repository, with attribution for its original source.

You CAN publish in any journal and try to keep your copyright, but be prepared for negotiation.  You must ask about keeping your copyright as soon as your article is accepted. Almost all publishers have procedures in place to accommodate those requests, if your research is unique and valuable. Even if the publisher says no, you can choose to withdraw your submission or, you can ask for additional rights such as the right to makes copies of your article or place a copy in your institution's repository.   

Bargaining for Better Publication Agreement


Creative Commons License: A means to retain copyright while proactively granting permission to reuse the work under specific conditions such as attribution.  

Embargo: Publishing embargoes are encountered when the original article publisher prevents and delays databases and other article aggregators from providing full text access.  Embargoes for dissertations and thesis is the length of time between when the dissertation is accepted and when the full text is made available in an institutional repository . Authors embargo their dissertations when they hope to publish a revised version as a book or as book chapters.  If no author publication opportunity occurs within two or three years, the repository copy can be desiginated to become automatically available.

Fair Use: specific exemptions to the exclusive rights of the copyright holder.  Fair Use (section 107) provides the factors to be considered in determining fair use:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


Infringement: in the context of copyright, using more of a copyright work than is allowed by law or interpretation of fair use.

License: a license is a contract. Signing a license can mean you are giving your copyright to a publisher.  Applying a Creative Common license  to your work is your contract (agreement) granting permission, according to the Creative Commons terms of the license you chose.

Open Access: The scholarly communication definition of open access by Peter SuberOpen-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

Orphan Works: works still believed to be in copyright but there is no way to identify or contact the copyright owner, e.g. photographs of studio no longer in business.

Rights of the copyright holder:  the copyright law (17 U.S.Code Section 106) grants copyright holders the right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, perform and display the work.  

Plagiarism: Presenting someone else's work, ideas or concepts as your own.  Plagiarism is an ethical concept.  Copyright violation is a legal concept.

Public Domain: Works no longer in copyright or never covered by copyright.

SPARC addendum:  Publisher agreements may give authors some rights to reuse their works, the SPARC addendum in an addendum to the publisher agreement giving the authors specific additional rights to their works including the ability to make copies available for noncommercial use.  

TEACH Act:  The TEACH Act allows certain activities such as showing a feature-length film without payment provided the activity takes place within the context of face-to-face instruction.  The TEACH Act is not copyright law, but does give exemptions to the rights of copyright holders.


Work for hire: Works made in the normal course of employment. When a work is created as part of your job your employer owns the copyright unless both parties have an agreement in place to allow you to retain the copyright.


Articles can be retracted (withdrawn) for a number of reasons such as plagiarism or significant defects found in the methodology post-publication such as cold fusion.  Findings can (and will) be challenged for many reasons--that's the way science works; it's the art of getting it 'less wrong.'   Post-publication peer review and open access mandates for data will likely result in an increase in retractions as the underlying data is made available.

Findings can be challenged for less honorable reasons such as with Dr. Omalu's game-changing article on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy describing the link between brain damage and concussions in professional football players.

But what if you find a mistake in your own work post publication?  Retraction Watch offers advice from authors "who've been there."