Author Rights


Do I have the right to deposit my work in OpenEmory?

What rights do I need to submit to OpenEmory?

By submitting your work to OpenEmory, you are depositing it in an institutional repository. The full text will be available to the public for free. Therefore, in order to submit a work to OpenEmory, you must have the right to reproduce and distribute a work on the web.

Do I have the right to reproduce and distribute my work?

As an author of a work, you exclusively own all rights under copyright from the moment you create an original work in a "fixed and tangible medium of expression." If you take a photograph, you own the copyright the moment the photo is taken. If you write a journal article, you own the copyright the moment you put pen to paper or your fingertips to the keyboard.  

As the copyright owner, you are entitled to a bundle of exclusive rights, including the right to:

  • reproduce the work
  • distribute the work
  • prepare a derivative work
  • publicly display the work
  • publicly perform the work

As the copyright owner, you get to determine who is authorized to exercise any or all of these rights with regard to your work for as long as the work is protected by copyright. The current copyright term is your life plus 70 years.

You are the owner of copyright to any original work you have created unless you have transferred your copyright to some other person or entity, such as a publisher, or the work constitutes a "work made for hire" [PDF] under U.S. Copyright Law. For additional information, see "What rights do I have in a 'work made for hire'?"

Find out how to retain your rights when you publish a work.

What rights do I have as a co-author?

If you publish something with other authors, you share copyright. Each author has the same rights to the work, and has an undivided share in copyright. This means your coauthor has the right to license the use of the work without your permission but must share any profits received from licensing the work. However, in practice it is best if co-authors discuss and agree on where to publish the work, what rights to assign or retain, and whether to deposit the work in a repository like OpenEmory.

What rights do I have in a "work made for hire"?

Generally when you create a copyrighted work "within the scope" of your employment, the work is considered to be a "work made for hire" [PDF] under U.S. Copyright Law. This means that your employer owns the copyright to that work. This can sometimes apply to the work you do for an internship or fellowship as well.

For more information about "work made for hire" at Emory University, please see Emory's Intellectual Property Policy (Policy 7.6) [PDF].

How would I know if I transferred my copyright or not?

Copyright can only be transferred in writing. In the academic publishing world, copyright can often be transferred in publishing agreements. To understand if you have transferred your rights to a work, you must consult the agreement that you signed with the publisher.

If your work is not yet published, and you have not signed an author agreement or transfer of copyright, you still possess all the copyrights associated with your work.

If you have already published the work (or transferred the copyright/signed the author agreement associated with a projected publication), you can check your author agreement to find out what rights you have retained.

I do not have a copy of my publishing agreement. Now what?

To determine which version of an article you are allowed to publish, you can start by searching SHERPA/RoMEO, a free database that collects information about author agreements of various journals and publishers.

If your publisher's information is not available on SHERPA/RoMEO, you can look at the publisher's website to see if they indicate what rights they allow authors to retain after publication.

If you were not the corresponding author for a particular work, reach out to that author to find out if they have a copy of the agreement.

Finally, you may always contact the publisher directly to ask for a copy of the author agreement.

I have transferred all my rights and am no longer the copyright owner. Can I submit to OpenEmory anyway?

No. If you are not the copyright owner of the work and the publisher's policy does not allow you to deposit the work in your institutional repository, you should not submit it to OpenEmory without seeking permission from the publisher first. Submitting a work to which you do not own copyright constitutes an infringement of copyright.

For information on seeking permission, contact the Emory Libraries' Scholarly Communications Office at

Retaining my rights

Why should I retain my rights?

The short answer: control, freedom, and flexibility. Retaining some or all rights under copyright gives you the ability to reuse your own work and decide how your work may be used by others. You can decide who gets to copy your work, distribute it, put it on display, perform it, etc. Signing away all of these rights prevents you from controlling the work and limits your ability to use your own work again in the future. Most importantly, retaining rights under copyright gives you the ability to share your work freely and openly. You will need to retain the right to deposit in an institutional repository in order to include your work in OpenEmory.

How can I retain my rights beyond what the standard author agreement allows?

There are two options for retaining your rights when you publish:

  • Publish your work in an open access journal which lets you share your work under a Creative Commons License. An example is PLoS, which applies a Creative Commons Attribution License.
  • Negotiate your rights to retain some or complete control over your work. You can use an Author Addendum to identify rights that you want to retain, and attach the Author Addendum to your author agreement. However, some publishers will not accept addendums. You may have more success asking the publisher to include the rights you want to retain in the author agreement itself.
How can I find publishers' policies on author rights before I publish?

You can search the journal title or the publisher in SHERPA/RoMEO, a free database of publishers' policies.

Also, open access publishers are typically more generous with author rights. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists thousands of open access journals, which you can browse by subject.

What rights will Emory have in the material I choose to submit?

In the Open Access Policy, each Faculty member grants to Emory University a nonexclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly works the author has chosen to distribute as Open Access, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. You remain the copyright owner, unless you choose to transfer the copyright to a publisher. This means Emory can distribute your works and make them searchable, but cannot sell them.

Need help?

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