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The Scholarly Communication Cycle

About the Scholarly Communication Cycle, Including Relevant Whittemore Library & FSU Resources


As a scholar or scientist, when you publish in a journal you are typically asked by the publisher to sign...a transfer agreement, or contract, that describes the assignment of various rights to the publisher in the intellectual property you have created...the agreements often deprive you of certain rights that you may not wish to forfeit, such as your right to post your article on the public Internet or to make copies for classroom use. To take advantage of the greater opportunity now available to communicate your research results, you need these rights to the articles you produce.

- SPARC, 'An Introduction to Copyright Resources for Authors'

Author's Rights are your 'Copyrights' - the exclusive (but temporary) 'bundle' of rights you own as the author/creator of your work.

Your author's rights include the right to...

  • publish
  • reproduce
  • adapt
  • perform
  • display

...your work.

Creator/authors have always had the right to keep all their copyrights, or to license some or all of them out to others (usually for money, but not always).

In the past, academic article authors have been in the peculiar position of being required to sign (or license) away most or even all of their copyrights to be published (and were not paid for them).

However, with the advent of the internet, and the beginning of the 'Open Movement', new ways to publish (such as in an Open Access (OA) journal, free online for all to read) became available.

Nowadays, academic article authors have a number of (sometimes confusing) publishing options:

  • Traditional, commercial journals
    • To read, you need to pay for a subscription or a pay per view fee
    • These have been around the longest (some are 100+ years old!), and so have the best reputations
    • They will ask you to give up (either via a copyright transfer or a very strict license agreement) most or all of your author's rights
  • Hybrid / Transformative journals
    • Contain both articles only viewable via subscription or pay per view AND also open articles that can be read free on the internet
    • Many of the classic, prestigious journals are actually in this phase, transforming (slowly) into OA journals.
    • If you want to publish your accepted article there so it can be openly-licensed, and read for free as open access, you need to pay an 'Article Processing Charge' (APC)
    • Or you can give away your copyright, and have your article published in the traditional manner at no cost to you (behind a paywall)
    • You still need to pay a subscription fee or pay per view fee to read the articles that are not OA.
  • Open Access journals
    • All the articles can be read for free on the internet
    • Some grant funders require you to publish research results articles as OA
    • If you want to publish your accepted article there as open access that can be read free online, you need to pay an 'Article Processing Charge' (APC)
    • You don't sign or license away all your author's rights to the publisher, but you voluntarily openly-license some of your rights to the public
    • Open-licensing makes it MUCH easier for other scholars to use your work to help them do their research (they don't have to ask you for permission because you told them what they could do with your work, up front)
    • These journals are younger, and simply not as well-known or prestigious
  • Online repositories
    • These aren't journals at all, but a place where articles (most often 'pre-prints') can be stored
    • There's no cost to anyone to read/download these, and they're considered the easiest way to access articles
    • Repositories do not provide the author support and editing services that journals do
    • Some of these article repositories allow on-going, open peer-review

Publication Agreements

With traditional commercial publishers, these tend, these days, to be licensing agreements where you agree to give the publisher most or all of your author's rights.They may let you keep a few, but these agreements must be read VERY carefully before you sign them.

Will the publishing agreement let you do things like:

  • Let you give copies of your work to colleagues and students? (reproduce)
  • Archive a copy of your work (pre-print, post-print, publisher's version?) in your institution's repository? (publish)
  • Add a copy of your work to your institution's LMS? (publish)
  • Post a downloadable copy of your work on your personal website or a site like ResearchGate? (publish)
  • Use your own work as part of a new, longer work (e.g. adding your article to a collection of related articles that will be published together)? (adapt)
  • Use your article to create a longer work (scholarly monograph)? (adapt)

Author Addenda (Negotiating with Publishers)

If you're not happy with the terms of the publisher's licensing agreement, you can attach an author addendum (where you state your preferred changes) to the contract. Some publishers (especially the big names with high-volume submissions taken via an online system) refuse to accept these, so while they're worth trying, addenda are not a guaranteed panacea/solution.  But yes, you can negotiate!

MORE about Copyright