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Publishing Options and Opportunities: Copyright & Publishing

Copyright & Author Rights Basics

Copyright is automatic and protects both published and unpublished original works.

What happens when I publish?

Often when an author publishes they sign a copyright transfer agreement or a publishing agreement. In a copyright transfer agreement you typically will sign over the full copyright to the publisher.

The agreement may allow you to retain such rights, but you no longer hold copyright. You likely won't be able to do the following:

  • Post the article on your personal website
  • Use the article as a chapter in your dissertation
  • Publish the article again in an anthology of your work

It is very possible that you would be violating copyright on your own article. Be sure to read your agreement to know your rights and negotiate the agreement.

Your Author Rights

You know what you write, but do you know your rights?

  • You own what you create. As the author of a work you are automatically the copyright holder. Copyright registration is not required.
  • You retain your copyright unless you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement, such as a journal publisher.
  • The copyright holder controls the work. 
  • Transferring copyright doesn't have to be "all or nothing."
  • Your assignment of rights to publisher's could hinder your future uses of your work.

Read your Copyright Transfer Agreement or Publishing Agreement

Know your rights before you sign a publishing agreement!

This UC Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) page discusses what to look out for in a copyright transfer agreement, what to look out for in your journal publishing contracts, and your options.

Rights Reversion

We can’t give you legal advice, but we can help you understand issues and find more resources. Please contact us at

Top Tip: Negotiate your contract

Publishers only need a license to publish, not your full copyright. By negotiating your publishing agreements you can retain more of your rights as an author.

See our guide with model licenses and addendum info for articles, books, and other digital scholarship.