Read the Fine Print: Author's Rights

A core desire of university faculty is to disseminate their research and other original creations. For over 100 years, faculty members have accomplished this desire by formally publishing research and other creative works.

Most of you have finalized that process by signing a publisher’s contract, but how carefully have you read the contract you signed? Perhaps you have questioned the terms of that contract but signed it anyway. Do you know that in signing these contracts you may give up your right to use copies of your article as a reading assignment in your classes or to share copies of your article with colleagues? Do you know that although these contracts often bundle the five exclusive rights of the copyright holder – to reproduce the work; to prepare derivative works; to distribute copies of the work by sales or other means; to perform the work publicly; and to display the work publicly – you can “unbundle” these rights and/or make them non-exclusive?

The original intent of copyright was to stimulate the growth of knowledge through the dissemination of new knowledge in an environment that protects the rights of the creator of that knowledge. Given the evolving state of technology and the current state of scholarly publishing, is the original intent of copyright being undermined as publishers – particularly commercial publishers – look at the impact of copyright provisions on their profit margins?

These are issues of concern for academic institutions throughout the country. These are also issues of concern in the government sector, with the NIH Public Access Policy, which may be made mandatory in 2007 ( and with the introduction of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) – which “requires every federal agency with an annual research budget of more than $100 million to implement a public access policy.” (

To see how these could affect you, visit: and explore the SPARC author’s addendum, Creative Commons licenses, the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers, and the Directory of Open Access Journals.

This year, the Baylor University Libraries will begin a series of outreach opportunities addressing these important changes in scholarly communication. Contact Billie Peterson-Lugo or Beth Tice for more information.

-Billie Peterson-Lugo and Beth Tice