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Authors' Rights

Author's Rights

As an author, it is very important for you to know what rights you have to your own work. These rights determine whether you can include your work in a repository, republish it in a collection, or distribute it to your colleagues.

For the most part, your rights in your work are governed by the contract you sign with your publisher. Thus, it's important to read that contract carefully!

Many publishers offer an option to make the published version of your work publicly available upon publication, for a fee (often quite a large one).

However, in most cases, you can also make your work publicly available without paying. The difference lies in:

  • Which version of the work you can use, and
  • When you can make it available

Most large academic publishers (such as Wiley, Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Springer, Routledge, etc) allow authors to make their accepted manuscript available online, after an embargo period. I'll cover both of those concepts below.

Publisher Conditions

What kind of contract did you sign?

​Here are some issues to check for in your contract:

  • Whether the author or publisher holds copyright
  • If you hold copyright, whether the publisher's license is exclusive or non-exclusive
  • Which version of your article you can self-archive
  • Whether there is an embargo period before you can self-archive
  • What rights your journal allows to its readers; for instance, some publish under Creative Commons licenses

Your agreement with the publisher determines the extent to which you are allowed to distribute your own work, so it's important to read it carefully!

Why should I care?

Your agreement with the publisher determines what you can do with your work!

  • Can you post a copy of your work in an electronic repository?
  • Can you prepare derivative works?
  • Can you use your work in your teaching?
  • Can you publish it again in a collection?

Publisher agreements might allow or disallow these uses!

Is there any way to look this up?

Publisher's policies have grown more complex, since they offer different contracts to authors who have paid fees than to those who haven't; this process has made SHERPARomeo a little bit more difficult to use.  If you find the symbols confusing, you can find links at the bottom of the page to the actual policy.

Or, you can ask me! I'm not a lawyer and can't offer legal advice, but I do have some experience reading these policies and am happy to go over them with you.

Otherwise, check your contract! It should spell out what you can do. Pay particular attention to your rights regarding archiving. 

Different Versions of Works

Multiple versions of a work are usually involved during the publication process. To simplify, publishers usually refer to three different stages:

  • The Submitted Manuscript, otherwise known as the pre-print, is the version of the article you submitted to the publisher. It has not yet undergone peer review.
  • The Accepted Manuscript, or the post-print, is the final, peer-reviewed version of the article -- the one that was accepted for publication.
  • The Version of Record, or the publisher's PDF, is the version of the article that actually appears in the journal, with the publisher's typesetting and formatting.

Most publishers will allow you to share the Accepted Manuscript, so it's a good idea to save a copy.


Publishers' policies often impose an embargo, or waiting period, between the time of publication and when you can share your accepted manuscript. You can usually find this length of this embargo on the publisher's website or in your contract.

If it seems difficult to remember that you'll be able to share your article many months after publication, note that there are ways to automate this. For instance, if you submit your work to CUNY Academic Works, there is a feature which allows you to input the length of the embargo, with the work becoming automatically available once the embargo expires.

Book Publishing

If you are publishing a book, it's less likely that the publisher will have a blanket policy covering all their publications. The contract will govern what you can do with your work. Thus, it's important to understand your contract and, if this is important to you, to negotiate for those rights.

Some good advice in this respect can be found in this guide by the Authors' Alliance: