Publishing agreements

Issues to consider when deciding to publish your work

  • The most appropriate publishing model that meets your specific criteria (e.g. society publisher, commercial academic publisher, open access publisher, other publishing models)
  • Ensure that you have obtained permission to include any third party material (see the using third- party material section for example of seeking permission)
  • Be aware of any particular conditions attached to funding grants that may have implications regarding your choice of publisher (open access deposit, e.g. NHMRC policy on the dissemination of research findings)
  • What do you want to do with your work in the future? (Do you want to retain the right to copy it, distribute it, make amendments, post it to a website, add it to a repository etc...)

Who owns the copyright and what are your author's rights?

In general, if your work is the result of your scholarly output, then you are granted automatic copyright

Moral rights also exist even though you may not hold copyright. It implies an understanding that an author must be acknowledged and credited as the creator of the work. It then follows that it is illegal for your work to be falsely attributed to someone else and that any work that you cite and wish to use must in turn be fully acknowledged and clearly attributed or cited

If your work has been produced on behalf of someone else, i.e. where you have been commissioned or hired to produce the work, then copyright resides with that employer. An example is producing teaching or course materials on behalf of a University. You retain moral rights as the author, which means that you must be properly attributed or acknowledged as the author anytime that work is cited or used.

Publishing agreements

As the copyright owner of your work, you have the right to reproduce your work, publish it in print or electronically, make it available online, perform it in public, adapt it and broadcast it.

You also have the choice to assign or licence some or all of these rights to a publisher.

  • It's important to understand the type of publishing agreement you are being asked to sign and how long it will last.

You may be requested to sign over copyright to the publisher (assign copyright), sign an exclusive licence or a non-exclusive licence.

Each agreement is different and needs to be understood in terms of what it means for the way you may wish to use your own work in the present and in the future and you also need to be aware if one agreement covers all potential output versions of your work, e.g. print book, e-book, audio book, etc... or do you need to enter into separate agreements.

  • A transfer of copyright means that you assign all or some of the copyright to the publisher. The publisher in turn may return some of the rights back to you to give you permission to use your work in different ways, i.e. to make copies; to post on your website; to deposit into a repository etc...
  • With an exclusive licence, you retain copyright, but grant certain rights to your publisher that state the exact conditions under which they can publish and use your work
  • With a non-exclusive licence, you give the publisher permission to publish the item on your behalf, while you retain the copyright. This means that you do not need to seek the permission of the publisher if you want to use your work in different ways, i.e. make copies, post on a website, deposit in a repository etc...

It's becoming more common for publishers to return to authors some of their rights, in particular the right to deposit a version of the work in a repository, post the work on a website etc...Consult publishers' websites for further information regarding author rights and responsibilities.

If the publisher does not explicitly provide this information it is still possible to negotiate a standard contract by asking the publisher to consider an addendum to their agreement. DRO provides a sample addendum for you to consider.

You may also wish to explore the open licensing model offered by Creative Commons licences. This is where you as the copyright owner expressly decide the conditions under which you allow your work to be openly accessible.

Further information

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