Copyright Information

Overview and Licensing for Deposit in Digital Commons

Copyright is a valuable asset that calls for careful management. As an author, you hold copyright in your work from the moment your original expression is fixed in tangible form. Copyright gives you exclusive authority over copying, distribution, performance, and display of your work, as well as over derivative works. Unless your work is "made for hire," you retain exclusive copyright over your work until copyright protection for the work expires, you transfer one or more copyright rights to another party, or you license another party to make specific use of your work. In order to deposit your work in Digital Commons @ Georgia Southern, you must hold copyright for your work, or otherwise have sufficient permission from copyright or license holders to grant the University a license to publish your work.

Digital Commons does not knowingly or intentionally archive works in violation of United States copyright law or copyright agreements between authors and publishers. In any instance where a work is archived in Digital Commons that violates copyright restrictions, the work will be removed upon notification. All University employees are subject to the University System of Georgia Policy on the Use of Copyrighted Works in Education and Research and the Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Policy of the University.

For guidance determining whether you hold sufficient copyright authority or permission to archive your work in Digital Commons, please consult the following sections. When deposit of a work is not possible due to copyright restrictions, a citation, abstract, and link to the published version of your work may be added to the repository.

Licensing Your Work in Digital Commons

In most cases, in order to maximize the likelihood that your work will be cited and reused by other researchers while protecting your right to attribution, the library recommends that you assign a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0) license to your work at the time of submission to Digital Commons. Unless you explicitly request a different license at the time of submission to Digital Commons, select publications in Digital Commons@Georgia Southern will automatically assign a CC-BY 4.0 license to your work. These publications will note this in the submission agreement and/or form.

If the CC-BY 4.0 does not work for your needs, consider the following options:

  • Alternative Creative Commons Licenses: Creative Commons provides a licensing tool online to help you customize a license to fit your needs.
  • Digital Commons@Georgia Southern License: You may minimally grant the University a non-exclusive license to publish your work as outlined in the Submission Agreement for Digital Commons @ Georgia Southern. However, this license does not provide any accommodation for reuse by third parties viewing or downloading your work from Digital Commons. If you adopt this license, you will be responsible for licensing any further reuse of your work by such parties. This license may be reviewed at any time at your request pursuant to reasonable revisions.
  • Other customized license: We will work with you to create a license that suits you. Contact the Digital Commons staff (digitalcommons@georgiasouthern.edu) with any questions.

For licensing advice particular to data and datasets, see the library’s guide to Basic Intellectual Property Rights in Data Management.

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Glossary: Transfer Agreements, Licenses, and Publication Versions

Most publishers use one of two mechanisms for transferring copyright or licensing a work for publication. Additionally, most publishers distinguish between different versions of an author's work for purposes of self-archiving and future use. These concepts are important to understand when evaluating copyright and license agreements, and when determining your authority to archive a work in Digital Commons.

Copyright Transfer Agreement: A legal document signed by the author prior to publication that transfers all or some of the author's copyright rights to the publisher. Some rights or licenses may be returned to the author as part of this agreement. Under such an agreement, the publisher becomes the copyright holder of the work. Copyright transfer agreements are more common, and more likely to serve the interests of the publisher.

License to Publish: A legal document signed by the author prior to publication that provides the publisher with an exclusive or non-exclusive license to publish the work under additional conditions. Under a license to publish, the author retains copyright; however, the author's future use of the work may be constrained by the terms of the license. Licenses to publish are less common, but more likely to serve the interests of the author.

Published Version: The final version of the author's work as prepared for publication by the publisher. The published version is the final print or electronic manifestation of the work, including all revisions made as the result of any editorial or peer-review process, and including any layout or copy editing performed by the publisher in preparation for publication.

Post-Print: The author's final manuscript version, including revisions made as the result of any editorial or peer-review process. However, unlike the published version, the post-print does not include any layout or copy editing performed by the publisher in preparation for publication. Proofs and off-prints provided to the author by the publisher do not qualify as post-prints.

Pre-Print: the author's original manuscript version of a work as it was first submitted for publication. The pre-print does not include revisions made as the result of any editorial or peer-review process, nor does it include any layout or copy editing performed by the publisher.

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Protecting Your Copyright with Publishers

The publication process usually involves a transfer of copyright rights from the author to the publisher. However, it is not always necessary for the author to transfer all rights to the publisher in order to publish a work.

Again, in order to archive your work in Digital Commons, you must hold copyright for your work, or otherwise have sufficient permission from copyright or license holders to grant the University a non-exclusive license to publish your work as outlined in the Submission Agreement for Digital Commons @ Georgia Southern (some conferences and journals may have different submission agreements).

Many publishers allow you to archive a pre-print or post-print of your work in an open-access repository. Publishers are most likely to allow you to archive a pre-print of your work. However, because this version does not include revisions made as the result of any editorial or peer-review process, it is less desirable for sharing. On the other hand, publishers are least likely to allow you to archive the published version of your work.

Because the content of the post-print is largely the same as the published version of your work, you are strongly encouraged to archive the post-print version of your work if permitted. In some cases, you may archive the published version of your work after a specified embargo period, or if you compensate the publisher.

Many publishers are willing to negotiate the terms of their copyright transfer agreements, or permit use of a license to publish instead. Regardless, it is important for you to review and negotiate the terms of publication with the publisher prior to signing any documents. A license to publish written in the publisher's favor may restrict your rights just as much as a copyright transfer agreement.

The first step to protecting your copyright is to review copyright policies as part of vetting potential publishers or publications for your work. You are strongly encouraged to consult with your Library Liaison during this process. During the vetting process, consider the following steps:

  1. Consider publishing with a publisher that shares your goals as a scholar. One good place to look is the Directory of Open Access Journals.
  2. Search Beall's List of Publishers for the publisher or publication to see if it has been identified as "predatory," or as engaging in practices that do not ensure peer-review or exploit authors' desire to publish.
  3. Search the SHERPA/RoMEO database for the publisher or publication to see their current copyright and archiving policies.
  4. Obtain a copy of the publisher's standard copyright transfer agreement or license to publish, and use this checklist from Indiana University to review its conditions.
  5. Contact the publisher to see if they permit use of a copyright addendum, alternative agreement language, or a license to publish.

The second step to protecting your copyright occurs when you submit your work to a publisher. Some publishers now require "click-through" agreements which the author completes at the time of manuscript submission, thus binding the author to certain conditions if the work is accepted for publication. If this is the case, you should review the click-through agreement as carefully as you would any copyright transfer agreement or license to publish. If you have concerns about the content of the click-through agreement, you may need to contact the publisher prior to submitting your work.

The third step to protecting your copyright occurs after your work has been accepted for publication. When preparing for publication, consider the following steps:

  1. Request that the publisher add an addendum to your copyright transfer agreement or license to publish that returns self-archiving and other desired rights to you. Numerous such addenda exist and can be used for this purpose, including the SPARC Author Addendum or Science Commons' Copyright Addendum Engine. See this list from Simmons College for additional examples of author addenda.
  2. If the publisher will not accept an author addendum, request that the terms of your agreement or license be modified to permit self-archiving. See this document from Cornell University for examples of alternative language that you can propose.
  3. Alternately, if the publisher will accept a license to publish, consider licensing your work using a Creative Commons license you create, or the publisher's already-prepared license.
  4. If you have received funding for your research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you must submit all post-prints to PubMed Central within twelve months of publication. Any copyright transfer agreement or license to publish you sign must allow you to comply with this requirement. For more information, see this page on the NIH website.
  5. Take special care to review any document that includes a "non-compete" clause or constrains your rights with regard to derivative works, as these may limit your ability to create new works in the same research area or field of study.
  6. In any case, be sure to use this checklist from Indiana University to review the conditions of all documents prior to signing them.

Remember, until you sign any copyright transfer agreements or licenses to publish, you retain exclusive copyright over your work. If you cannot accept the conditions a publisher will place on you in order to publish your work, consider a different publisher.

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Archiving Previously Published Works

As outlined above, when publishing a work, the author typically signs a copyright transfer agreement with the publisher that defines which rights are transferred to the publisher, and which are retained by the author. In many cases, the entire bundle of copyright rights is assigned to the publisher, and then certain rights or licenses are given back to the author. Alternately, some publishers require only that authors provide an exclusive or non-exclusive license to publish their work.

If you intend to submit a work to Digital Commons for which a copyright transfer agreement or license to publish previously has been signed, you must determine whether you retain sufficient authority to archive your work in Digital Commons.

Again, many publishers allow you to archive a pre-print or post-print of your work in an open-access repository. Publishers are most likely to allow you to archive a pre-print of your work. However, because this version does not include revisions made as the result of any editorial or peer-review process, it is less desirable for sharing. On the other hand, publishers are least likely to allow you to archive the published version of your work.

Because the content of the post-print is largely the same as the published version of your work, you are strongly encouraged to archive the post-print version of your work if permitted. In some cases, you may archive the published version of your work after a specified embargo period, or if you compensate the publisher.

In order to determine whether you may archive one or more versions of your work under your existing publisher agreement, follow these steps:

  1. Use this checklist from Indiana University to review the conditions of your signed copyright transfer agreement or license to publish to determine whether archiving is currently allowed, and under what conditions.
  2. If you have not retained a copy of your transfer agreement or license to publish, search the SHERPA/RoMEO database for your publisher or publication to see their current copyright and archiving policies.
  3. If your publisher or publication is not covered by SHERPA/RoMEO, check the publisher's website. If need be, contact the publisher for a copy of your copyright agreement or license to publish, as well as for additional information about their copyright policies.

If you currently do not have authority to archive your preferred version of your work in Digital Commons, you may petition the copyright holder for permission or seek to recover your copyright. To do so, consider these options:

  1. If you know from searching SHERPA/RoMEO or visiting the publisher's website that the publisher offers different copyright options than when you originally published your article, request that the publisher update your agreement or license.
  2. Request that the publisher add an addendum to your existing agreement or license that returns self-archiving or other desired rights to you. Numerous such addenda exist and can be used for this purpose, including the SPARC Author Addendum or Science Commons' Copyright Addendum Engine. See this list from Simmons College for additional examples of author addenda.
  3. If the publisher will not accept a contract addendum, request that the terms of your agreement or license be modified to permit self-archiving. See this document from Cornell University for examples of alternative language that you can propose.
  4. If the publisher will not work with you to restore your right to self-archive your preferred version of your work, then you may be able to reclaim your copyright by sending a termination notice to the publisher and registering the termination with the United States Copyright Office. For more information, see this document on Termination of Transfers and Licenses under 17 U.S.C. §203. However, this may result in retraction or withdrawal of your article from the original publication.

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Archiving Unpublished Works and Works for Hire

If your work is "made for hire" for the University, then you may need to obtain permission to submit your work for archiving. Please consult with your supervisor. For University documents explicitly prepared for public dissemination, such permission is implicit in final approval and dissemination of the document.

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