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Scott Memorial Library
1020 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

JEFFSelects: Copyright & Fair Use

Retaining Your Copyright

Author's rights videoWhen you write articles for scholarly publication most journal publishers require you to sign over your copyright as a condition of publication. The copyright portion of the contract governs what rights you will enjoy following publication of your article. Most publishers want to make money by controlling access to the material they publish, but this interest needs to be balanced with your interest as an author in making your work as widely available as possible, and in being able to reuse your material for teaching and other non-commercial purposes. View a 2-minute video about why it is important to retain your rights.

If your research has been funded by the NIH, NIH now requires that you deposit a copy of your peer-reviewed article in PubMed Central. All of your work would benefit from deposit in the Jefferson Digital Commons, our own institutional repository. But in order to make such deposits, you need to have right to do so.

Anticipating Publication

While some publishers do explicitly authorize you to reuse your material, or to deposit it with NIH or your institutional repository, many do not make such allowances in their contracts. You have the right to request changes in your contract. The easiest way to do this is to attach an addendum outlining the rights you wish to retain.

Both the Library and Jefferson's University Counsel recommend that you retain your right to deposit your articles at NIH and/or Jefferson Digital Commons, using either:

  1. the author's addendum (PDF) developed by the Boston Library Consortium, or
  2. the author's addendum (complete online) developed by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition and the Science Commons:

Steps to use either addendum:

  • Review your publishing contract to see if the publisher already gives you the rights you want. If not, attach the addendum
  • Fill in the name of your article, the journal name, the authors’ names, and the publisher’s name, as indicated.
  • Sign and date the addendum.
  • Sign and date your publisher’s agreement. Immediately below your signature write: “Subject to attached addendum.”
  • Include a brief cover letter to the publisher that calls attention to the addendum.
  • Make a copy of all three documents (the publisher’s form, your amendment, and your cover letter) for your records.
  • Staple the three original documents together.
  • Mail the three original documents to the publisher.
  • As specified in the Addendum, if the publisher publishes the article without signing the addendum, this is deemed to constitute agreement to the revised terms you have specified.

If your publisher refuses to accept your proposed changes, you can still publish your article under the stricter contract if you wish. But it doesn't hurt to ask, and as publishers catch on that this is an important issue for faculty, they should start to modify their contracts so it is less of an issue.

Contact the University Counsel's office for questions about contract language.

Already Published

Some publishers have made changes in their policies that now override contracts you signed in the past. Such changes are almost always to remove restrictions. How do you know what is your publisher's current policy? Look it up on the SHERPA site - a database of publishers' policies.

If your publisher isn't on the list, and/or you haven't kept a copy of your agreement, you will need to contact the publisher for a statement about their current policy. Scott Library staff can help; call the Service Desk at 215-503-6994 or use the email service for help in contacting publishers.

Remember - when you deposit your articles at NIH or Jefferson Digital Commons, you will be asked to state that you have the right to do so.