This guide is intended to enable you as a scholar, researcher, or creative artist to understand your rights and to make decisions about publishing your work in open access forums.
You own the copyright to your work and the protections of US Copyright Law apply as soon as your work is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression” [§ 102 (a)]. Subject to certain exceptions, copyright is actually an exclusive package of rights belonging to you, including the right to reproduce and distribute work. These rights are yours until you grant them to a another person or organization, such as a publisher. [§ 106]
For an easy, step-by-step guide for identifying your rights and making decisions about using them, see the Copyright Way Finder.
For general information about copyright, see the Library's Copyright Guide.
As a copyright holder, you can retain your rights even while you make your work available in an Open Access forum by applying a Creative Commons license. CC licenses offer you the opportunity to determine how your work may be used. For example, you can specify that users must acknowledge you as the author/creator; you can also decide whether or not your work may be used for commercial purposes.
Want to learn more? Take a look at the research guide Creative Commons Licenses.
When you sign a publishing agreement for a journal article or a book, you grant the publisher certain rights – rights which the publisher requires in order to reproduce and distribute your work. Nonetheless, you can ensure that you retain the right to make your work available in an Open Access forum by including an addendum to the publishing agreement. For more information about your rights as an author and a publishing agreement addendum, see the following websites:
If you have already signed an agreement with a third party regarding the creation or publication of your work, you may have transferred some or all of the rights included under copyright. Therefore, before you reproduce or distribute the work (for example, by posting it on your own website or by depositing it in a disciplinary or institutional repository), you should consult the agreement which you signed.
For a quick guide on how to share your work, visit the website How Can I Share It?
The website SHERPA/RoMEO provides an updated index of the standard rights and permissions contained in the publishing agreements of most major scholarly journals and commercial publishers.
An increasing number of funding agencies and grant-making foundations require that the resulting work be made available in an Open Access forum. If you've received a grant for your work, please check your sponsor's policies. For a list of US funding agencies which now require Open Access, see this list hosted by CHORUS.
When you consider your publishing options, be aware that not all Open Access journals offer the same degree of openness and, unfortunately, not all Open Access journals are legitimate. The website Scholarly Open Access, hosted by Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver, provides an overview of exploitive Open Access publishers. The Chronicle of Higher Education published this interview with Beall.
How Open Is It? is a guide that explains terminology to help you assess a journal's level of openness.
Use this checklist, hosted by the Duke University Medical Center Library and Archives, to determine if an Open Access journal is legitimate or predatory.