VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Open Access

Author Rights

Authors own the copyright in their works unless some or all of those rights are transferred through a license. Many publishers request a full copyright transfer, 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 guides on Copyright for Faculty and Copyright for Graduate Students

Keeping Your Copyrights

Know Your Sharing Rights

If you transferred your copyright to the publisher, 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.
  • Use your article DOI to search the "How Can I Share It" tool.
  • Look for the journal or publisher policies on their website, or check the SHERPA/RoMEO website.
  • If the publisher's policy information is not available online, contact them directly. Use suggested templates for permission requests from SHERPA/RoMEO.

Regaining Rights to Your Books

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

This Authors Alliance guide helps authors understand rights reversion, or the process by which a publisher returns copyright 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? Maybe 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. Use this guide to determine if you are eligible for rights reversion, request rights reversion from your publisher, and 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 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.