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Copyright: Frequently Asked Questions

Please note: this document can only provide guidelines and should not be relied on for legal advice.

For further information please contact, Administrator, ePrints@IISc, phone 2511, e-mail admin@eprints.iisc.ernet.in.

Who owns the copyright of my article?

Articles that have already been published: in most cases you would have signed an agreement transferring copyright to the publisher.

Articles not yet submitted to a journal: currently you as the author retain copyright.

What rights might I be signing away to publishers?

This will vary depending on the agreement, but as a guide traditional copyright agreements may not permit authors to:

Am I required to sign copyright agreements as they stand? Can I make changes to an agreement or offer an alternative agreement?

Most publishers will be willing to discuss copyright agreements with authors. Obviously they may simply refuse to publish an article if an author is unwilling to sign a copyright agreement as it stands. However, publishers may be willing to accept a license that you have amended. They may also be willing to accept an alternative agreement.

A number of publishers are now starting to offer "License to publish" agreements as an alternative to "Copyright Transfer" agreements, and often these are more liberal and may permit authors to deposit their papers in institutional repositories.

For example:

Licence to Publish Agreement option offered by Professional Engineering Publishing. PEP are the publishers of journals for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Nature Publishing Group's Author License Policy [See also NPG's sample license form]

Is a "license to publish" any different from a traditional copyright agreement?

In many respects such agreements are no different. However, they may give authors a number of rights which were not permitted under previous copyright transfer agreements.

How can I find out which publishers have "open" copyright agreements?

Many publishers make their copyright agreements available on their web sites. Most agreements make it clear what rights authors are permitted to retain. If this is not the case it is best to contact the publisher directly. You can also consult the list of publishers copyright policies and policies on self-archiving prepared by NCSI staff. More comprehensive list is maintained by the SHERPA Project. Note that these lists are not exhaustive, and they may not include information on the publisher you are interested in. However, they provide a useful way of seeing at a glance which publishers have open copyright agreements.

The Lund Directory of Open Access Journals lists "free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals by title and by subject".

NCSI List of Selected Publishers Archiving Policies Directory of Publishers Copyright Policies [RoMEO/SHERPA](search by publisher)
EPrints/RoMEO Publisher Policies list (search by journal title)
The Lund Directory of Open Access Journals [Lund University, Sweden]

Do publishers need copyright agreements to publish?

The JISC (U.K.) funded RoMEO Project carried out a series of studies on IPR issues. The fourth in a series of studies "An Analysis of Journal Publishers "Copyright Agreements" found that publishers gave a variety of reasons for asking authors to assign copyright.

However, as can be seen from the fact that open access publishers do not require authors to assign copyright it is possible for articles to be published without copyright being assigned.

RoMEO Final Report and Studies Series
An Analysis of Journal Publishers' Copyright Agreements [RoMEO Studies 4]

Pre-prints/self-archiving - will publishers still be willing to publish my article if I have made a pre-print available in a subject or institutional repository?

This varies depending on the publisher. Many publishers make it a condition of publication that they will not consider any articles which have already been made publicly available. Some publishers specify that making a work available in a repository constitutes "prior publication". If in doubt check with the publisher directly.

If a publisher has changed its policy since my article was published does the new policy apply retrospectively?

Some publishers have changed their policies and extended the new rights to all authors regardless of when their papers were published. If it is unclear if new rights are to be applied retrospectively it may be necessary to contact the publisher to check if this is the case.

If you are keen to avoid assigning your rights away as an author you may wish to consider the following options suggested by the RoMEO Project:

Are there any model licenses available that I can use?

A number of organisations have been working on developing model licenses. Authors are free to use and adapt these. An example of a sample license is available at: