Retaining Your Rights as an Author

When a work is published, you may give up your rights to the copying and distribution of your own work.

If you contract with a publisher, the publisher typically controls the publication of your original work and assumes copyright of the work. Although this saves you much of the burden of advertising, producing, and distributing your work, you may give up some or all of the rights you originally held that directly affect your role as educator and scholar. 
For example, unless you receive permission from the publisher, and depending upon a fair use judgment, you may no longer have the right to :

  • authorize copies of your work for inclusion in a course pack
  • place a digital copy of your work on eReserves, a course web site (e.g. Moodle), or on the college's or a professional society's web site or digital archive
  • distribute a copy (in print or via email or the internet) to colleagues and students .

What can you do to retain your rights when having a worked published?

  • Negotiate with a publisher to retain your rights in connection to any personal, professional or non-profit educational activities for which you may want to make and control copies of your work
    • Add an "author amendment" or "author addendum" to the publishing agreement to retain rights.  More resources are available on our Author Rights Agreements & Addenda page
    • Grant the College basic rights for use of your work on its web sites (Moodle, eReserves, etc.).
  • Explicity retain ownership of your content
    • Grant only those rights that the publisher strictly requires to publish the work.
    • Keep all other rights, specifically those of value to you (such as making unlimited copies for educational purposes at the College or elsewhere).
  • Read all the agreements carefully before you sign them.


  • Negotiate to keep those rights which are important to you. 
    Having raised the issue of your authorial rights, send the publisher a copy of the author amendment or addendum that you would like to include in your contract.
  • Once you have reached agreement on the language of the provisions, write a cover letter acknowledging the publisher's cooperation and noting the inclusion of the amendment/addendum. Then mail the contract, amendment, and cover letter to the publisher.
  • Get a signed acceptance of your amendment confirmed by the publisher. 
    Keep a copy of all paperwork for your records.
  • Even if you are unable to obtain the right to post your work to your web site or institutional repository now, the publisher may grant those rights in the future. Retain a copy of your work so it may be easily posted at a later date.

Author Rights Agreements & Addenda

Author publication agreements may be submitted to your publisher in order to retain rights to make copies of your article or other scholarly/intellectual work (e.g., to use in your courses, on your own web site, and the College's website). For a brief video introduction to this practice, watch here, or take a look at our guide to Retaining Your Rights As An Author.

  • Copyright Management Center author addenda
    Copyright Advisory Office (Columbia University)

  • Information about what rights publishers offer to authors, related to posting articles and other content on the web (SHERPA/RoMEO)
    SHERPA=Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access
    RoMEO=Rights Metadata for Open archiving
    Search and View Publisher's Open Access policies:

When completing the SPARC / Science Commons online process to generate an Author Addendum, you have the following options:

Access - Reuse gives you sufficient rights to post a copy of the published version of your article (usually in pdf form) online immediately to a site that does not charge for access to the article. Primarily, this would mean posting to sites such as a university digital library or a disciplinary repository, such as the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central server, or, of course, to your own web site.

Under Access - Reuse, you also retain sufficient rights to grant to the reading public a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial license. A Creative Commons license specifies uses that the author permits the reader to make with the article. Under this option, you can grant to the public the right to re-use or re-post your article so long as you are given credit as the author and so long as the reader's use is non-commercial. (For those familiar with theSPARC Author's Addendum, this option provides for retention of the same rights.)


Immediate Access gives you sufficient rights to post a copy of the published version of your article (usually in pdf form) online immediately to a site that does not charge for access to the article. (This is essentially the same provision as is in the MIT Copyright Amendment (DOCX file), available from the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy page.


Delayed Access treats the final version of your manuscript and the published version of your article differently. Under this option, you have the right immediately to post your final version of the article, as edited after peer review,to a site that does not charge for access to the article. With respect to the published version of your article, you can post it to a site that does not charge for access, but you must arrange not to make the article available to the public until six months after the date of publication.


(above information adapted from SPARC/Science Commons web sites under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial license)