Published 12 July 2024

Contracting and copyright1, 2, 3

When discussing the terms of your publishing agreement with a publisher, it is important to be aware of open access requirements from your institution or research funder and to pay close attention to the terms specific to making the work open access, such as copyright retention and the particular open licence.

When you create original work, in most cases you will be the initial owner of the copyright in that work. This means that you have the exclusive right to make copies of your work; sell or otherwise distribute your work; prepare adaptations (e.g., audio editions, movie adaptations and translations); and perform or display your work publicly. Though these rights are subject to a number of limitations, an author generally has the choice whether to licence or transfer any, or all, of these rights and, if so, to whom and to what extent.

However, if the work is the result of research that was covered by a grant or conducted in service of a research institution, you may have an obligation to make the work freely available, in accordance with the open access policy of your funder or the institution (See Open access book policy landscape).

Note that in many cases, the work you create will also contain content that is not created by you but by a third party, e.g., illustrations, graphs (See Third party permissions ).

When a publisher has agreed to publish your work, the transfer of rights is arranged in the publishing agreement or book contract. Typically, you will sign a publishing agreement after your book proposal has passed peer review but before you have completed the full manuscript for the book.

Contracting for open access publication

If the publisher has agreed to publish your book open access, under an open access licence, the agreement should contain specific terms:

  • The author retains his or her copyright and licenses specific rights, including publication rights, to the publisher. Alternatively, the author can assign copyright to the publisher provided that the work is made freely available for further distribution under the terms of an open licence (Author Alliance, 2015).

  • As the work will be made freely available, the publisher cannot claim exclusive publication rights. However, the publisher may ask for first publication rights.

  • The publisher agrees to publish the work under an open licence, typically a Creative Commons (CC) licence. The publisher may have a preference for the licence under which they publish open access books, but legally this is a decision for the copyright holder. If you are obliged by a funder or institution to make the work freely available, the agreement should conform to the requirements set out in its open access policy. This may include a provision for the type of Creative Commons licence that can be used.

  • In return for publishing the manuscript open access, the publisher may negotiate a fee, the ‘book processing charge’ or ‘open access publication fee’. This fee may be covered under the terms of a research grant, or through a contribution from the research funder, or by your institution.

The rights that you transfer to your publisher will determine who can license any re-use not permitted by the Creative Commons licence you have chosen (see How will researchers use, re-use and build upon my research?).

Contracting and self-archiving

If your publisher does not provide the option to publish the book or chapter as gold open access, the agreement may allow for the possibility to self-archive the manuscript (green open access), making it available immediately or following an embargo period. If you are required by a funder or your research institution to make your work freely available, the self-archiving terms should meet these policy requirements, such as a maximum embargo period.

Your institution may retain a non-exclusive licence to your academic work, including the right for it to make the accepted manuscript version of your work available under a Creative Commons licence. This is known as a ‘rights retention policy’ and will ensure your work can be self-archived in accordance with your funder or institution’s requirements. In this case when contracting with a publisher you may not assign copyright or grant exclusive rights to your work, as this would conflict with your institution’s prior licence.

Creative Commons License
This article is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Last edited on 12 July 2024, at 11:19 (+0000)