Author Rights

This guide summarizes what you need to know about your rights as an academic author / creator before, during and after you publish and/or share your intellectual works.

Copyright Is…

Copyright is the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish or perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work (Canadian Intellectual Property Office).

Under Canadian Copyright Law, cCopyright for intellectual work belongs to the author and any co-authors from the time of creation unless and until those rights are transferred to someone else in a signed agreement.

In many Canadian university collective agreements authors retain rights to works of research, teaching, and scholarship, but there is sometimes variability. Check your employment contract or collective agreement on the status of intellectual property ownership of this type of works.

In order to best understand your rights as an author, you should familiarize yourself with the basic tenets of cCopyright lLaw, which govern the rights and responsibilities of copyright holders.

Before You Submit

1. Consider your publication venue carefully and with caution – look before you leap!

The scholarly communications landscape is rapidly evolving in response to the transformative impact of networked technologies on teaching and researcher workflows and academic publishing practices as well as funder policies on open access to research findings. There are more publications and publishers than ever before — so knowing which one to select is not an easy feat.

Alongside many reputable journals, a number of pay-to-publish, vanity journals (as well as websites that use dubious or fraudulent means to appear to be legitimate journals) have appeared in recent years, published under an open access model.  Much like any other online scam, – their primary goal is to dupe the unsuspecting author into paying fees to publish in their journal.

Publishing in –or even simply submitting to– a disreputable journal can have a damaging effect on the reputation of the both the researcher and their institution.


  • Think Check Submit
  • How to Assess a Journal (CARL)

2. Identify the rights that are important to you/what rights do you hope to retain

Where you publish your works to achieve the greatest reach and impact is important.  Impacts include citations, applications and re-use by others. However, don’t forget that you will likely In addition you may want to re-use and build on your own works, e.g.. Potential uses for your published research, post-publication include:

  • Using the research iIn your teaching
  • Copying it for students or colleagues
  • Depositing the work into a subject repository (eg arXiv) or institutional repository
  • Re-using portions in subsequent works.
  • Posting a copy of your publication to your research group’s or personal website

Did you know, some or all of the rights required to do these activities may NOT be available to you after you sign a publisher agreement?.

3. Review your funder andor institution’s policies. Are you required to make your funded research openly accessible?

Make sure you are aware of any policies or requirements that may have an impact on the agreements you can sign with publishers.


  • Tri-Agency Policy on Open Access to Publications.
  • Tri-Agency Statement of Principles on Digital Data Management

–> Case Study # 1: Publisher malpractice – after submission

During Submission and Review

1. Exercise and retain your rights to your work(s)

Read and understand the publication agreement BEFORE you sign

Many publishers require authors torequest that authors relinquish their copyright to the publisher – this may have a detrimental affect on your right to reuse your own work.

2. Negotiate when necessary – to retain your rights

Publishers rely on their authors to provide them with the content for their journals (which authors do, primarily for free). Given this, they have an incentive to work collaboratively with authors. It’s important to understand that publishers’ do not require all rights to publish your work — just certain rights. Publishing doesn’t have to be an “all-or-nothing” approach and it’s important that you assert and negotiate for retaining certain rights that matter to you.

  • Communicate your rationale and any external requirements to disseminate, clearly to your publisher.
  • Be positive, clear and persuasive.  The human in-person touch can help. Pick up the phone first, then put it in writing.
  • Attach the SPARC Canadian Authors Addendum to your publisher agreement. This provides legal language that can be tacked onto a publication agreement and enables the retention of your rights.
  • Co-authors will also have rights in the work and must be consulted before signing agreements.

–> Case Study # 2: Successful rights retention