This is the "How to Retain Your Rights" page of the "Tools for Authors" guide.
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This libguide provides guidance for authors in support of their scholarship efforts.
Last Updated: Jul 15, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

How to Retain Your Rights Print Page


The copyright law gives an author of a work a bundle of exclusive rights to do and authorize others to do the following with the work:

  • To reproduce the work
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public
  • To prepare derivative works based on the work
  • To display the work publicly
  • To perform the work publicly

Under the traditional academic publication model an author typically transfers all copyright interests to a publisher. If authors relinquish all their copyright interests to the publisher, the author loses the ability to use his or her own work without permission from the publisher.

Because of advances in digital technology, many publishers offer authors options for management of their copyright with flexible use conditions that meet the needs of both parties. Authors no longer have to transfer all their rights in a single bundle in exchange for publication.

Addenda for Authors

  • Washington University Copyright Addendum Form
    The Washington University Copyright Addendum form will generate a customized PDF that authors can attach to a journal publisher’s copyright form to retain specific rights that are not expressly stated by the publisher. WU authors are NOT required to use the WU Addendum.

  • The Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine
    The Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine created by Creative Commons allows authors to choose from four addenda which will automatically generate amendments to a publisher’s copyright agreement for authors to retain certain rights to their work.
  • NIH Addendum Form
    The NIH Addendum form allows NIH-funded authors to retain the right to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.

Examples of Publication Rights for Authors


Need Help?

Do you need help with reviewing a publisher copyright agreement? Contact Cathy Sarli for assistance.


What Rights Should Authors Retain?

Authors are encouraged to anticipate their future use of the work and retain any or all of the rights they may need to achieve their academic and professional goals. Authors may want to retain rights to do the following:

  • Make copies of the work for educational use, including class notes, study guides or electronic reserves
  • Use part of the work as a basis for a future publication
  • Send copies of the work to colleagues
  • 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
  • Deposit the work in an institutional or funding agency repository
  • Post the work on a laboratory or institutional web site on a restricted network or publicly available network
  • Include the work in future derivative works, including 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

What Should Authors Do?


  • Anticipate the ways you wish to reuse and disseminate your work
  • Use a publisher that allows authors to retain certain rights or is willing to negotiate
  • Review the publisher’s copyright agreement form before signing to confirm that the anticipated uses and rights are noted on the form
  • Attach an addendum if necessary, in order to retain rights
  • Keep a record of all signed documents
  • Comply with any publisher restrictions on use

How to Negotiate and Retain Rights

In some cases it may be necessary to negotiate with a publisher in order to retain rights that are not expressly noted by the publisher on the journal website or the publisher copyright agreement form. One way for authors to negotiate is to discuss their needs with the publisher or Editor-in-Chief. In most cases, the publisher or Editor-in-Chief will support the author’s rationale in favor of retaining of certain rights. Once an agreement is reached authors are encouraged to confirm what was agreed upon by doing one of the following:

  1. Ask the publisher to send a new copyright agreement form.
  2. Ask the publisher if you can attach an addendum to the publisher’s copyright agreement form in order to retain the rights as desired.
  3. Insert the rights you wish to retain in the publisher copyright form. Some publisher copyright agreement forms include a space for authors to insert rights they wish to retain.

Any changes made directly on the form agreement must include the initials of the author and the initials of an authorized representative of the publisher, which are placed immediately adjacent to the handwritten or typewritten change.  Any changes made and initialed by the author will have no legal effect without the approval of the publisher.


How to Locate Publisher Copyright Policies

  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. Look under “Instructions for Authors” or “Copyright Information” on the journal website. Many publishers provide detailed information for authors as to what uses are permitted under the publisher’s copyright policy for a given journal.

Some journal publishers have not updated their copyright agreement forms to correspond with the information provided in the instructions for authors section. Authors are encouraged to carefully review the publisher copyright agreement form before signing to confirm that the anticipated uses and rights or the rights granted up front by the publisher are outlined on the form. If not, authors should seek clarification from the publisher before signing and ask if you can include an addendum. In some instances, a publisher will send a new copyright agreement form.


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