Modifying an Article Publication Agreement

Journal publishers have traditionally required that authors transfer their entire bundle of rights to the publisher as a condition of publication.  Once you have signed a publishing agreement to transfer your exclusive rights to the publisher, you no longer own the copyright for your own work.


Did you know?

  • You do not have to transfer all of your rights

  • You can choose to transfer only certain rights

  • You can choose to transfer these as nonexclusive rights, so that you still retain your copyright


Changes in scholarly publishing

One of the important changes that has occurred in scholarly publishing in recent years is that most publisher agreements (also called copyright transfer agreements) now allow you to retain your rights to the noncommercial reuse of your work.  Generally, this means that after publication of the typeset version, and after a specified embargo period–-usually between six months and two years after publication–-you have the right to make your postprint available on your webpage, or deposit it in an open access repository such as eScholarship or arXiv.  The postprint is the version after peer review, but before typesetting.


Reading your article publication agreement

Read your article publication agreement carefully to determine if it allows you to retain these rights.  Look for sections such as "Author Rights," "Retained Rights," or "Retention of Author Rights." The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition recommends the following approach to copyright management, which balances the rights of authors and publishers:


  • Retain the rights you want.
  • Use and develop your work without restriction.
  • Increase access for education and research.
  • Receive proper attribution when your work is used.
  • If you choose, deposit your work in an open online archive where it will be permanently and openly accessible.


  • Obtain a nonexclusive right to publish and distribute a work and receive a financial return.
  • Receive proper attribution and citation as the journal of first publication.
  • Migrate the work to future formats and include it in collections.


What if the publisher's agreement doesn't allow me to retain my rights?  

If the publisher's agreement does not allow you to make your manuscript version of the article publicly available on a personal webpage or in an open access repository, you can attach an addendum or amendment to the publisher's agreement.  This is a short document modifying the agreement provided by the publisher.  Any of the addenda below can be attached to a publishing agreement:

  • UC Recommended Addendum - authors can download and print this addendum to attach to their publisher's publication agreement.
  • SPARC Author Addendum - authors can download and print this SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) addendum to attach to their publisher's publication agreement.
  • Science Commons Author Addendum - authors can use this tool to easily generate a printable .pdf addendum to attach to their publisher's publication agreement.  It is not limited to science articles or publishers.


What if the journal publisher refuses to accept my addendum?

By submitting an addendum you have communicated to the publisher that you care about managing your copyright and you think that the addendum reflects a fair balance between your interests and the publisher’s. If the publisher disagrees, find out which terms of the addendum the publisher objects to most. Some publishers may be willing to agree to some modifications to their standard agreements. You hold the exclusive rights to your work.  The publisher cannot publish your article without your signature on the publishing agreement.  You will have to decide whether this is the right publisher for you. 


If you need help

Sherri L. Barnes, the Scholarly Communication Program Coordinator in the Library, can assist with understanding publishers' policies, modifying agreements, negotiating with publishers, or any other aspect of managing your intellectual property.

The University of California Reshaping Scholarly Communication website states that "Managing your intellectual effort through the transferal and retention of copyrights is a key to reshaping scholarly communication to balance your interests and the academy’s interests with the interests of publishers. The transfer of copyrights can bestow tremendous economic advantage to publishers. By managing the rights you retain and those you transfer, you can maximize the dissemination, use, and impact of your work."