VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Open Access

Author Rights

Authors of works own the copyrights in those works unless some or all of those rights are transferred to another through a license. Many publishers ask that authors transfer their entire copyrights, but authors do have options other than giving up their copyright ownership entirely.

Authors can negotiate with publishers to retain certain rights. Some rights authors may want to retain include:

  • the right to reuse the work in teaching, such as distributing copies to students, or to distribute copies to colleagues
  • the right to reuse the work in future research, such as including portions of the work in future publications
  • the right to deposit the work in VCU's institutional repository Scholars Compass or another open access repository where it will be permanently and openly accessible

For more information on copyright, see the VCU Libraries copyright research guide

Keeping Your Copyrights

  • Author's Rights, Tout de Suite
  • Keep Your Copyrights: A Resource for Creators
  • SHERPA/RoMEO
  • SPARC Author Addendum

Determining Your Rights for Previously Published Works

If you transferred your copyright to the publisher at the time of publication, your right to re-use the content in teaching and publication or to make the work openly available online may be restricted. To determine your rights, take the following steps:

  • If you have it, check your original publishing agreement.
  • Look for the specific publisher's policies on their website or see if it is listed on the SHERPA/RoMEO website.
  • If the publisher's policy information is not available online, contact them directly. Suggested templates for permission requests are available at the SHERPA/RoMEO site.

Regaining Rights to Your Books

Understanding Rights Reversion: When, Why, & How to Regain Copyright and Make Your Book More Available

This guide created by the Authors Alliance will help authors understand rights reversion, or the process by which a publisher returns copyrights to the author. Is a book you published not selling like it used to or not being made available in a format you would like to offer it? Perhaps it has fallen out of print or is no longer being marketed by the publisher, or you would like to make it openly available online. Using this guide, you can determine if you are eligible for rights reversion, understand how to communicate your request to your publisher, and learn how to work with your publisher to revive your book without reverting rights. 

Using Creative Commons Licenses

Many open access publications are made available under Creative Commons licenses. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that gives you the legal tools you need to grant others permission to use your work under the conditions of your choice. Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright but work alongside it, allowing you to keep your copyrights while permitting others to make certain uses of your work. You can choose to permit or deny commercial (for profit) uses of your work and the modification of your work to create new works, and whether or not any new works have to be licensed under the same terms that you chose.

Once you have learned more about the licenses Creative Commons offers, you can select the license you want for each of your works. Using the license chooser tool, you can generate code that you can easily embed into a web page. Creative Commons also has tutorials for marking your works with a license notice in a variety of other formats.