Skip to Main Content

Open Access Toolkit: Author rights

Author rights and publishing agreements

The scholarly publishing world is changing and authors are now able to make publishing choices that give them more control of their work and its accessibility, balancing their rights as an author with publisher rights.

Copyright ownership and what you as an author can do with your work will be impacted by the publishing agreements you sign. Consider the following:

  • If you publish your work in an institutional repository (e.g. the UWA Profiles and Research Repository), some publishers may not accept this work as it is considered already published.
  • If you publish your work in a commercial journal the publisher agreement may limit future publishing options for that work.
  • If you have already published articles from your thesis during candidature, there may be publisher restrictions on making it fully accessible in an institutional repository. 

The publication version that can be deposited into an institutional repository (commonly known as “self-archiving”) varies according to publisher policies; it may be the pre-print, post-print (also known as an Author’s Accepted Manuscript, or AAM) or sometimes even the final published version.  Often it is the AAM version that can be self-archived, but always check your publication agreement or seek clarification from the publisher if you are unsure.

If you do not have a copy of your AAM, you can request a copy from the publisher using the following suggested wording:

“Could you please provide me with a copy of the revised, peer-reviewed personal version of the paper (the Author’s Accepted Manuscript, or post-print, version).”

If you are not the corresponding author, you should contact the corresponding author for a copy of the AAM in the first instance.

Open licensing options

When publishing open access, authors can often choose to licence their work with a Creative Commons licence. Creative Commons licences allow reuse (some with conditions) while protecting the authors' rights of acknowledgment as authors, and enabling authors to retain copyright of their work.

The most commonly used Creative Commons licences in open access publishing are:

The UWA Research Integrity Policy encourages the use of CC BY licences; see section 10(B)(9): "Researchers will - make publications available on Open Access under the most appropriate Creative Commons licence, and preferably the CC BY licence." Regardless of which licence is selected, the author/s retain copyright of the article.

Some points to consider when selecting a licence include:

  • The CC BY licence is the least restrictive option as it allows others to copy and redistribute the article in any medium or format, and for any purpose – including commercial purposes – providing the original source is attributed.
  • The “non-commercial” clause in the CC BY-NC and CC BY-NC-ND licences can be problematic due to the lack of clarity around what constitutes a “non-commercial” activity. For example, some educational or research uses verge close to commercial, or are commercial in nature - e.g. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and micro-credential courses - so articles with a CC BY-NC or CC BY-NC-ND could not be used for these purposes. 
  • The “no-derivates” clause in the CC BY-NC-ND licence means that the article can still be copied and distributed, providing no changes to the article were made. However, this means the article could not be translated or adapted in any way without permission.
  • When publishing with a CC BY-NC or CC BY-NC-ND licence, some publishers may request that the author/s sign an exclusive licence to publish agreement that assigns all rights not covered by the Creative Commons licence to the publisher. This means the author is the copyright holder in name only and can only use the article in the ways permitted by the Creative Commons licence. To avoid assigning your rights to a publisher, always read through any publication agreement before signing it and, if you are unhappy with any of the agreement terms, negotiate with the publisher to amend the publication agreement or seek advice from the Library

Amending publication agreements

If a publishing agreement does not specifically grant you the right to self-archive a copy of the AAM, it may be possible to cross out the relevant section of the existing agreement and insert a statement about the rights you wish to retain.

The UWA Research Integrity Policy states (section 10(B)(4)):

avoid transferring copyright to the publisher and ensure publication contracts allow self-archiving of the Author's accepted manuscript in the UWA Profile and Research Repository.  If self-archiving is not included the publisher contract, then University Authors will request inclusion of the following addendum -

The author has the right to publicly archive their revised, peer reviewed personal version of their paper in their institutional repository, provided a link to the version on the publisher website is included.

If you do this, ensure you contact the publisher or journal editor to let them know what you are doing and why. If you amend the agreement you need to ensure that the publisher/journal editor acknowledges – and agrees to – the amendments in order for them to be valid.

For more information on publishing agreements and copyright, see the University Library’s Copyright and publishing webpage.

Planning resources

Developing a publishing plan at the outset of your research journey will provide a tool for managing your copyright ownership effectively. Below are links to resources to help you make informed publishing decisions:

  • The OAPEN Open Access Toolkit "aims to help book authors to better understand open access book publishing and to increase trust in open access books. You will be able to find relevant articles on open access book publishing following the research lifecycle, by browsing frequently asked questions or by searching with keywords."
  • The JISC Licensing page covers the important features of publishing agreements.
  • The SPARC Author Addendum is a legal document that modifies agreements to allow more author rights.
  • Sherpa/Romeo lists publishers' permissions regarding copyright and self-archiving. Note that this information is not legally binding in Australia – your specific publisher agreement may override generic publisher policies.
  • UWA Intellectual Property Policy covers UWA student and staff IP ownership.

ISC/SPARC author rights video

This brief video, produced by the Institute on Scholarly Communication in association with SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), explains how researchers can maximize exposure and dissemination for their peer-reviewed article manuscripts.

Contact for support

Email your questions to our friendly library staff.


HDR Students

UWA Staff

More contact options are available on the Library Contact us page.


 Except for logos, Canva designs or where otherwise indicated, content in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.