Retaining your rights as an author

Before signing an author’s agreement with a publisher, check to make sure that you retain all the rights you need to use your work in the future. For non-open access agreements you will likely be required to sign over copyright, but many agreements will still allow you to retain non-exclusive rights to share & reuse your work. Some things to look for include: 

  • Can you post a copy in the Tufts Digital Library, on a pre-print server, or on your website? 
  • Can you use your article in teaching or conference presentations, or share it with colleagues? 
  • Can you reuse content published in the article? Graduate students should check for thesis reuse in particular. 

To see some examples of publishers’ terms that require you to sign over copyright but do allow you to retain some non-exclusive rights, see Taylor & Francis, Sage, ACM, or University of Chicago Press

If the agreement doesn’t allow you to retain the rights that you need to use your work in the future, you may be able to negotiate with the publisher. Identify the terms that are necessary for you, and reach out to your editor. 

Amendment to publication agreements 

One tool available to authors looking to retain additional rights is an author’s amendment. This is a legal instrument that you can use to modify your copyright transfer agreements to ensure that you retain rights to share and reuse your work. The SPARC Author Addendum is a well-known example of this tool.  

These documents were created at a time when most author’s agreements were signed on paper and the terms of the agreements were often more restrictive. With many publishing systems moving to click-through author’s agreements, and with authors retaining more non-exclusive rights, it’s not clear how useful these amendments are now. However, if you do need to negotiate terms with your publisher, the language and terms in the document may still be helpful as talking points. 


To learn more about a publisher’s policies before you decide to submit an article to them:

  • Look up the journal in Sherpa Romeo 
  • Try Googling “[Publisher name] author’s rights” or “[Publisher name] self-archiving” 

Get in touch with the Scholarly Communication Team. We can help you find & evaluate a publisher’s policies.