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Retaining Author Rights

Congratulations! Someone wants to publish your work. That is always thrilling, but in the rush of excitement don’t give away more rights than you should. Some authors think that the publishing agreement is a take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing, but many aspects of the agreement can be negotiated.

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Why Should I Care?

Restrictive publishing agreements often transfer copyright ownership or grant an exclusive license to the publisher. This can prevent you or BYU from using your work in many useful ways, such as (1) making copies for teaching, (2) posting portions of your work on personal or BYU web sites or other online repositories, or (3) using your work in other research activities within a fast-changing technological environment.

When you protect rights to your intellectual work, you gain desired flexibility and freedom to make your work more widely available by. Clarify before you sign the agreement.

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Who Owns the Copyright?

As the author of a work, you are the copyright owner until you transfer copyright ownership in writing to someone else. At BYU, unless substantial university resources are used, you become the copyright owner of your authored works. To view the Intellectual Property Policy for BYU, visit (requires NetID and password).

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What Should I Do Next?

Before you sign on the dotted line:

1. Contemplate: What are the possible present and future uses of your work?

While many publishing agreements grant most rights to the publisher, the publisher may not need all the rights they sometimes seek. They may agree, once you bring it to their attention, that you should be allowed to reserve certain rights. Request the rights that both you and BYU need. At a minimum, seek to retain the rights to use your work for classroom use, distance teaching, lectures, seminars, BYU online repositories, other scholarly works, and professional activities.

2. Review the agreement: What does it allow or not allow?

Carefully review the section of the publishing agreement titled Author’s Rights or a similar section. The Copyright Licensing Office can help you review a publication agreement. You can also visit for information on retaining the rights to your work. Sample license addendums A and B with suggested wording are provided on the web site.

3. Negotiate: What rights do you need for personal and institutional use?

Do not be afraid to negotiate! More and more authors are successfully reserving the rights to use their works for themselves and their institutions through open discussion and negotiation. Propose inclusion of the author’s addendum as found at or

After you sign:

1. Confirm the publisher’s acceptance of any changes to the agreement.

The publisher should approve the changes you make; otherwise, there is no “meeting of the minds.” The agreement is valid only when it is written and signed by both parties.

2. Keep a copy for your records.

You may need to accurately recall or show evidence as to who owns rights to your work. A complete file of publishing agreements is useful and recommended for future reference.

3. Use and protect your rights and promote this idea with others.

If you retain rights to use the work for both you and BYU’s educational or research purposes, promote those rights for your benefit and the benefit of your readers. Urge your colleagues to insist on publication agreements that will not restrict the use of their scholarship.

If you remain the copyright owner, consider registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Visit Copyright Registration for more information.

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Brochure Available

You can print this full-color brochure: Where Have All My Rights Gone? Retaining Author Rights. Printed copies of the same brochure are also available from the Copyright Licensing Office, 3760 HBLL, 422-9339,

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Presentations and Additional Information

Manage Your Copyrights by Dr. Kenneth Crews, Columbia University (5 min.).
Bargaining for Better Publication Agreement by Dr. Kenneth Crews, Columbia University (25 min.).

Managing Your Rights as an Author, University of Minnesota

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Information for implementing NIH Public Access Policy

The NIH Public Access website includes information explaining the submission process, a list of Journals that automatically submit to PubMed Central, FAQ, and other policy and procedure details.

Implementing Public Access Policies by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).