For Creators

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Retaining Author Rights

What are your rights as an author?

As the author of a work you are the copyright holder unless or until you sign away some or all of your rights. According to copyright law, the copyright owner has a bundle of exclusive rights to their work, including the right to:

  • Reproduce copies of a work
  • Distribute copies of the work to the public
  • Prepare transitional or other derivative works
  • Perform or display the work publicly
  • Authorize others to exercise any of these rights

Why retain author rights?

Often publishers ask author(s) for exclusive rights when they publish their work. As a result an author’s ability to use or reuse their work in teaching and research, allow others to use, or share with colleagues and students is significantly restricted.

Making research publicly available has become a mandate from more and more funding agencies (e.g. NIH) and research institutions (e.g. Princeton Open Access Policy). To comply with such a mandate, researchers and faculty need to retain certain rights.

What rights to retain?

Understand that the publisher may not need all rights they seek and they may agree for you to retain certain rights once you bring it to their attention. At a minimum seek to retain the rights to use your work for classroom use (in any medium), research, professional activities (seminars, conferences), and personal and/or institutional website (department website or institutional repository.)

Don’t be afraid to negotiate! Many scholars have successfully negotiated their rights with publishers. If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. It never hurts to ask and express your needs to the publishers. If you don’t have time, ask for help from Scholarly Communications Office at [email protected].

How to retain author rights?

Before you sign the publishing agreement/contract, please make sure that you read the agreement and know what it does and does not allow. Then decide if the rights the publisher(s) gives back to you are good for potential personal, professional, and educational use in the future. If not, please consider adding a “Princeton University Author Addendum” to the publishing agreement or simply talking to the editor about the rights you would like to retain. Once you and the publisher/editor have reached an agreement on what rights you retain and what rights you transfer to them, have it put in writing and keep a copy for your records.

Consider using Creative Commons licenses when you share your work.

A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enables the free distribution of a work. CC licenses provide an author flexibility to tell the world how their work can be used without having to contact them and ask for permission. Creators/authors can choose from a selection of licenses, which are available on The website walks you through choosing a license that is best for your situation. CC licenses can be used for both online and print materials. If you have any questions related to CC license, please email [email protected]