Copyright issues for authors

This is an introduction to copyright issues relating to the USQ ePrint repository and academic publishing at USQ. It includes some practical suggestions for managing your copyright. Copyright law is complex so if necessary seek further advice from the University Legal Officer.

What is copyright?

Copyright is part of the law concerning intellectual property. It aims to reward people who do creative or intellectual work, give incentive to people who create new works and stop people getting an unfair advantage from the work of others. It aims to ensure that the public can benefit from the innovation in the form of cultural, social and economic development.

Generally, the author or creator of a work is automatically the first owner of the copyright in the work. If a work is created in the course of employment, the employer can sometimes assert ownership of that copyright. For more information see the USQ Intellectual Property Policy.

Copyright owners can transfer their copyright to a third party. Many academic journal publishers currently require authors to assign copyright in a work to them as part of the submission process.

Why is copyright important to me?

Copyright owners have a number of exclusive rights, including:

  • the right to publish the material
  • the right to reproduce the work (for example, by copying or scanning)
  • the right to communicate the work to the public (for example, by making it available online, by emailing it or by faxing it)

Thus, assigning copyright, on an unconditional basis, to a journal publisher means that you may be giving away free access to your own work.

  • You may not be allowed to post a copy on your own Web site or deposit a copy in an eprint repository.
  • You may have to ask permission, and perhaps even pay a royalty, to distribute copies to your classes or include your own work in a course pack.
  • Only subscribers to the journal (individually, institutionally or via a fulltext database license) will be able to access your research. This can seriously restrict research impact and progress.
  • As journal subscription fees continue to increase above the rate of inflation, many individuals and libraries will cancel journal subscriptions further restricting research access and impact.

For an overview of the issues, see:

The establishment of institutional eprint repositories is one of the strategies currently being proposed by scholarly communities around the globe to address this issue. USQ ePrints is one of these institutional repositories. The papers in USQ ePrints are part of an international corpus of research literature that is freely available online.

Managing your copyright

It is sometimes possible to negotiate with publishers at the time that your paper is accepted for publication, to retain some or all of your rights. At the very least, you should

(a) keep a copy of the agreement that you sign; and
(b) request as part of the agreement the right to archive a copy of your work in USQ ePrints.

The next section outlines some of the ways that you can do this.

1. Check the publisher's policy on self-archiving

While journal publishers usually ask authors to assign copyright to them, many now also allow self-archiving of postprints in an institutional repository. Other publishers may grant permission if a request is made to them. It will be useful for you to check the publisher's policy on self-archiving before submitting your article for peer review. The knowledge could influence your decision about how to manage your copyright.

The information may be on the journal's website. Look for links called "Notes to contributors" or "Information for authors". The information could be in the publishing contract. Read it carefully before signing. Here is an example of what to look for:

The Author(s) shall have the following rights

The right to post and update the Article on e-print servers as long as files prepared and/or formatted by APS or its vendors are not used for that purpose. Any such posting made or updated after acceptance of the Article for publication shall include a link to the online abstract in the APS journal or to the entry page of the journal . ( excerpt from the American Physical Society's transfer of Copyright form )

The RoMEO web site provides a list of publisher policies:

  • Publishers in GREEN support self-archiving of post-refereed postprints version.
  • Publishers in YELLOW or BLUE may support some archiving rights, and changes or exceptions can often be negotiated by authors. A link to the relevant publisher information is generally provided, and should be checked.

If the publisher allows authors to retain the right to self-archive or if assignment of copyright is not required, there is no need to go on to the next step: you can immediately deposit a copy of your paper in USQ ePrints. If unsure, then contact the USQ University Lawyer or the USQ ePrints Coordinator for advice and assistance.

As part of the post-deposit checking process, USQ ePrints staff will check the copyright policy of the publisher and will write on your behalf to the publisher for permission if required, or if the policy is unclear.

2. Amend the publication agreement or deposit the preprint version.

If the publisher does not allow authors to self-archive postprints, you could adopt one of the following strategies:

2a Best strategy: Amend the publishing agreement to reserve some rights

If the existing contract does not specifically grant authors the right to self-archive a copy of the postprint (post-refereed version of the work) 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. For example:

The author transfers to {Publisher} the exclusive rights comprised in the copyright of the work, except that the author retains the following:

  • The right to self-archive a copy of the work in the author's institutional eprint repository.
  • The right to make copies of all or part of the work for the author's use in teaching.
  • The right to use, after publication, all or part of this material in works by the author in print or electronic format.

Contact the publisher or journal editor to let them know what you are doing and why.

2b Alternative strategy: Retain your copyright and grant the publisher a "licence to publish"

You can choose to retain ownership of the copyright and grant the publisher an exclusive licence for the first formal publication of the work (in print, digital, or some other form).

Researchers who are employed by the US Government routinely use this strategy. They cannot assign copyright to publishers because the Government retains the copyright. It is worth noting that the publishers continue to publish articles authored by these researchers.

In addition to this you could grant the publisher a non-exclusive licence for at least the following purposes:

  • Subsequent republication of the work
  • Reproduction in course packs and in e-Reserve
  • Reformatted publication (e.g., works transferred from print to microform and digital forms).
  • Distribution through document delivery services
  • Public performance and display of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, motion pictures, and other audiovisual works.

By granting non-exclusive rights to the publisher, the author retains the right to do any of these things without needing publisher permission.

Cross out and replace the original exclusive transfer language with text such as the following:

The author grants to the Publisher exclusive first publication rights in the Work, and further grants a non-exclusive licence for other uses of the Work for the duration of its copyright in all languages, throughout the world, in all media.

See in particular, the SPARC addendum at

3. Another alternative: Deposit information only, or self-archive a copy of the pre-submitted version

Some publishers are very protective of what they perceive as their long term interests (including financial interests), and will not allow any flexibility or rights to authors seeking to use institutional repositories.

In this situation there are two main options: (a) USQ ePrints may make metadata (information about the paper) available including information about the location of the published version, and archive but not make accessible, a copy of the postprint; or (b)the author may self-archive the preprint before it is submitted.

Before a paper is submitted to a journal for peer review, the copyright belongs to the author. Therefore, the author is always free to self-archive the preprint at this point in time. In fact, some researchers routinely self-archive their preprints. Physicists have been doing this for many years into their main discipline archive.

There are considerable variations in what publishers will allow authors to do in the time between submission and final publication. For more information about these possibilities, see the CreateChange website Because it can be difficult to establish what rights are available to authors in that period, USQ ePrints prefers that postprint versions of papers are not deposited until final publication.

USQ ePrints Deposit Agreement

The process of depositing (self-archiving) a paper in USQ ePrints includes a deposit agreement at the end of the deposit process. The wording is similar to the wording in typical publisher contracts that authors sign when their paper is accepted for publication. The main function of this agreement is the declaration that the work is the intellectual property of the author. This means that the author (or person depositing on behalf of the author) is declaring that the work does not contain the intellectual property of a third party without the necessary acknowledgements or permissions.


Deposit Licence

Authors are encouraged to prominently assert their copyright, if known, on the title page of their work, and Depositors to identify the copyright status of the material if possible, prior to deposit.

The Depositor:

  • confirms that I am the author, one of the authors, an agent of one of the authors, or the copyright holder of the material, and have the authority to give the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) the right to publish the material in USQ ePrints
  • grants to USQ a permanent non-exclusive licence to store, reproduce and communicate this work and the associated bibliographic information. This licence includes the right to make it permanently readable and accessible on line without charge for non - commercial purposes.
  • agrees that USQ may, without changing the content, translate the submission to any medium or format for the purposes of preservation and technical repository requirements, and may keep more than 1 copy of the works for purposes of security backup and preservation
  • where the works contains embedded material for which the author(s) do not hold the copyright, I am satisfied that the unrestricted permission of the copyright owner to grant USQ the rights provided by this licence has been obtained AND such third party owned material is clearly identified and acknowledged within the text of the works.

USQ ePrints management and staff:

  • may exclude any material submitted that does not conform with the USQ ePrints Collection Development Policy.
  • will communicate with the depositor for issues concerning accessibility, eligibility, and correct metadata and with the relevant academic authority (Faculty Dean or Head of Unit) if there is a dispute about material eligibility.
  • will investigate the relevant publisher copyright or licence policy and ensure that an appropriate access level is applied to any versions of the work stored in USQ ePrints, and will not knowingly breach any rights.
  • is not responsible for any breach of intellectual property rights by end-users of material in USQ ePrints, and may remove any material from USQ ePrints should there be a request from the copyright owner of a work, or dispute about a work's ownership or intellectual property
  • agrees that copyright in the work is not transferred to USQ ePrints

Clicking on the Deposit Item Now button [on the screen] indicates your agreement to these terms.

Other rights

USQ ePrints documents are protected by copyright and it is the copyright owners who control reproduction rights. However, normally, readers may print and save electronic copies of whole papers for individual, non-commercial use. As with printed books and journals, attribution of authorship is essential. Any excerpts, quotations or paraphrasing should be fully referenced. The text may not be published commercially (in print or electronic form), or altered without permission of the author.

Information about records in USQ ePrints may be collected (or 'harvested') by third parties such as search engines to enable discovery of the archive's contents. This will help to increase access to your papers. Harvesting of the fulltext documents is not permitted, so you are not 'giving them away' to those third parties.

More information about Copyright and Intellectual Property

Glossary of terms


self-archive Depositing an electronic copy of an academic paper in a discipline-based or institutional eprint archive is known as "self-archiving". It may be deposited personally by the author (or one of the authors in a multi-authored work) or deposited on behalf of the author by an author-nominated person.


To assign means transfer or otherwise convey ownership of the copyright to another party or parties (generally a publisher). An assignment must be in writing and signed.

exclusive licence

If an author grants an exclusive licence, only the licensee can use the work in the way covered by the licence. The author would need to ask for the licensee's permission to use the work in that way.

non-exclusive licence

If the author grants a non-exclusive licence, specific rights for particular actions are generally defined. The author can continue to use the work in the way covered by the licence. The author may also grant other people non-exclusive licences to use the work in a particular way.


The author's draft, or manuscript, of an academic paper as submitted to a journal for peer review.



The author's final, revised, refereed draft of an academic paper as accepted by a journal for publication, but without the publisher-added formatting (eg. pagination, page format, copyright statement).


For information or advice on Copyright, please contact the

If you are a USQ staff member or postgraduate student and you would like some more information or some assistance with the self-archiving process, please contact the USQ ePrints Editor at or your Faculty Librarian.

Disclaimer and Acknowledgements

While every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, The University of Southern Queensland excludes any and all liability for any errors in or omissions from the information on this website or any third party website accessible from this website.

Permission of the QUT ePrints Administrator to use information from QUT copyright information is gratefully acknowledged. This page also draws on resources and information from SHERPA/ROMEOand CreateChange.