Copyright in research

Copyright is the right to copy and publish a work. Under copyright law, the person who creates the work or the employer owns the copyright of that work. In research, you can usually use copyrighted work as long as you cite the owner or the source.

Most subscription-based, non-open access journals require authors to transfer the copyright of their article to the publisher. When you have signed a copyright transfer agreement with a publisher, you must ask the publisher’s permission to re-use your publication in new publications or in teaching. To retain certain rights over your work, you can make changes to the publishers’ standard copyright transfer agreements. You can also add an addendum to the agreements. In the addendum you state the rights you wish to retain. To create an addendum, you can use the Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine. However, before making an addendum, you should first carefully read the publisher’s copyright transfer agreement, as this may already give you the rights you want.

Publicly sharing your non-open access publications, for example, on ResearchGate, is also bound by copyright. Consult Sherpa/ROMEO to see if you are allowed to publicly share your work and if your work is under embargo.

Publishers usually have different policies and embargoes for different versions of an article:

  • The pre-print is the first submitted manuscript of your article before peer-review, without revisions. It can usually be publicly shared without restrictions and embargo.
  • The post-print is the final submitted manuscript after peer-review. It includes your last revisions, but has not yet been typeset by the publisher. The post-print can usually be publicly shared after an embargo period.
  • The publisher’s version is the final article, formatted and typeset by the publisher, and usually cannot be publicly shared.

For Open Access publications, the copyright generally remains with the author(s). This means you can always share and publicly post your open access publications. Creative Commons (CC) licenses are generally used for Open Access articles and datasets.