Skip to Main Content

Copyright and Licensing for Instructors: Publishing

Author Rights

Managing Your Intellectual Property Rights

As an author, you do not have to surrender all of your copyrights when you publish. Having a fuller understanding of copyrights can help you manage your intellectual effort and bring a balance to the world of scholarly publishing by bringing the interests of publishers in line with your interests and the university’s interests. Here are some basic points to understand about copyright:

  • Copyright is a bundle of rights. They can be transferred in their entirety to a third-party (such as a publisher) or separated. Copyrights include the right to produce and sell or distribute copies of the work, to perform or display the work publicly, and to adapt or create derivative works.
  • You do not have to surrender your copyrights when you publish, though traditionally with academic writing, publishers have required the transfer of all copyrights as a condition of publication.
  • Transferring all copyrights to a publisher can have unintended consequences. For example, you may not be able to photocopy your own writing in a course packet or in e-reserves without permission of the publisher.
  • Giving all copyrights to the publisher also confers enormous market power on the publisher, since they become the exclusive owners of the author’s work. Libraries and universities struggle with the issues (e.g. licensing, high costs) of obtaining access to journals and information which are controlled by publishers, who often have a strong incentive and profit motive to limit access to information.
  • It falls to individual faculty members to manage their copyrights in ways that foster their own professional and academic goals and interests.

 You should consider retaining your rights to:

  • Reuse your work in teaching, future publications, and similar professional activities.
  • Post your work on the web, either in a repository; a disciplinary archive such as PubMed Central or arXiv; or on your own website.

Belk Library. Appalachian State University. (2019). Copyright, fair use and intellectual property. Retrieved from

Journal Classification

Journal Classification of Author Rights

SHERPA/RoMEO collects information about publisher policies related to online sharing (“archiving”) of works published in most journals. Journals and publishers are classified according to a color scheme that relates to the archive rights that authors retain. Authors are encouraged to research the policies of journals they have published in or are considering submitting a manuscript to in order to ascertain what rights in that work they will retain. Authors who wish to publish a copy of their articles will want to look for journals classified as green or blue, then check on any additional restrictions.

sherpa romeo color code explained

Understanding Manuscript Types

Publishers often make distinctions between three primary versions of a manuscript when detailing the archive or deposit rights retained by authors: the pre-print, the post-print and the publisher's version.

Pre-print – A pre-print is the original version of the manuscript as it is submitted to a journal. While the authors may have sought help from their colleagues in selecting data analysis techniques, improving manuscript clarity, and correcting grammar, the pre-print has not been through a process of peer review. It typically looks like a term paper – a double spaced .doc file with minimal formatting.

Post-print – A post-print is a document that has been through the peer review process and incorporated reviewers comments. It is the final version of the paper before it is sent off the journal for publication. It may be missing a final copyedit (if the journal still does that) and won’t be formatted to look like the journal. It still looks like the double spaced .doc file. Sometimes, the term “pre-print” is used interchangeably with “post-print,” but when it comes to permissions issues, it is important to clarify which version of a manuscript is being discussed.

Publishers version/PDF – This is the version of record that is published on the publisher's website. It will look quite spiffy, having been professionally typeset by the publisher. Library databases will link to this version of the paper.

Generally speaking, publishers are more likely to be okay with authors posting copies of pre-print versus other manuscript versions. But each journal is different, and authors need to be aware of what they can do. The copyright transfer agreement is the best place to find this information.

ACRL. (2019). Scholarly communication toolkit. Retrieved from