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Open Access at Washington University

Information about open access publishing options and issues

What Should Authors Do?

  • Anticipate the ways you wish to reuse and disseminate your work
  • Choose 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
  • When required, comply with publisher restrictions on re-use

Image from Flickr by Photosteve

What Rights Should Authors Retain

For purposes of WUSTL's Open Access Resolution, authors should:

Amend copyright agreements to retain the right to use his or her own work and to deposit such work in a University digital repository or another depository, which is freely accessible to the general public.

Or seek publishers for his or her works committed to free and unfettered access (often referred to as open access publishers) whenever consistent with his or her professional goals, such as in publications using Creative Commons licenses.


In addition, 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, subject-related or funding agency repository
  • Post 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

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 if you can attach an addendum to the publisher’s copyright agreement form in order to retain the rights as desired.
  2. Ask the publisher to send a new copyright agreement form.
  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.

Important: Keep a record of your publishing agreements!

Addenda for Authors

These tools may be useful for your negotiations with your publisher.

About Copyright

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:

- reproduce the work
- distribute copies of the work to the public
- prepare derivative works based on the work
- display the work publicly
- 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 do not have to transfer all their rights in a single bundle in exchange for publication.

More information about copyright:


Image from Flickr, by Horacio Valen

How to Locate Publisher Copyright Policies

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.

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.