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Author Rights

Copyright was designed to serve the public interest by encouraging the advancement of knowledge while safeguarding the rights of authors and copyright owners. Balancing the needs and rights of creators, publishers, and users is difficult in the digital environment. Research libraries are particularly concerned about the impact of copyright management practices on scholarly communication and the dissemination of information. ARL has joined with others in the higher education and research communities to promote barrier-free access to information while exploring ways to protect authors’ rights to their intellectual property.


US Copyright law gives the author of an original work, such as a scholarly article, the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, adapt, publicly perform, and publicly display the copyrighted work. Copyright protection is now automatic. The author obtains these exclusive rights at the moment the copyrighted work has been “fixed in a tangible medium,” such as when a written work has been saved on a computer's hard drive or printed.

The author retains these exclusive rights up until the moment the author signs a written agreement to transfer some or all of these exclusive rights. (By contrast, an author may give others non-exclusive permission to use the copyrighted work in a variety of ways, including through verbal agreement.) A transfer of any exclusive right is truly exclusive—once transferred, the author may no longer exercise that right. If the author intends to retain the right to make any further uses of the copyrighted work, or intends to grant others permission to make any use of the copyrighted work, the author must make this clear in a written transfer agreement.

Strategies for Encouraging Authors to Retain Their Rights

  • Hold conversations with faculty members about the importance of retaining their copyright
  • Create Web sites with information on copyright retention
  • Develop institutional versions of copyright publisher addendum
  • Offer consultation services to faculty who have copyright questions


Some sources that provide researcher and scholar authors with information and tools they can use to manage the copyrights they hold in their works are listed below. Additional tools useful for faculty outreach programs are released periodically through the ARL/ACRL Institute on Scholarly Communication FAIR pages. In the changing environment of digital communication and publishing, copyright is an issue of substantial importance for national and international policymaking. Resources on a broad spectrum of copyright issues are maintained by ARL.

Author Rights Web Sites

Library Statements in Support of Author Rights

Campus Statements in Support of Author Rights

  • University of California Academic Council’s Special Committee on Scholarly Communication, The Case of Scholars’ Management of Their Copyright (PDF)
  • Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), Provosts’ Statement on Publishing Agreements

Library Services in Support of Author Rights

Author Addenda Examples

In consultation with legal counsel, campus libraries have modified or prepared addenda to publishing agreements for use by their campus community.

For a review and analysis of author addenda, see Peter B. Hirtle, "Author Addenda: An Examination of Five Alternatives," D-Lib Magazine 12, no. 11 (Nov. 2006).

Other Resources



Coalition for Networked Information Logo
Library Copyright Alliance Logo
The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Logo