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Library Research Guides

Open Access

This research guide provides readers with a basic understanding of Open Access, which is broadly defined as content that is free to access and re-use.

Copyright Transfer and Retaining Your Rights

Whenever one of your papers is accepted for publication, the editor of the journal (or conference proceedings or book compilation) will send you an agreement to sign. It may be called a "copyright transfer agreement" or a "publishing contract" or an "Author's Agreement," but they are all essentially the same thing. It is probably a confusingly worded legal document that will require that you transfer your copyright to the publisher. It may also include details of payment, if any, or provisions that permit you to use your work in certain ways, such as making copies for teaching purposes.

In many cases, there will be rights that you would like to have that are not included in the standard agreement, such as:

  • the right to post the paper on your personal webpage
  • deposit the paper into Deep Blue
  • the right to distribute a certain number of PDF copies to colleagues in lieu of offprints

Retaining Your Rights With an Author's Addendum


One good way to obtain these rights is to add an addendum to the agreement you sign setting out terms that are important to you. The University of Michigan has prepared an addendum to meet the needs of U-M faculty and students. To use it, simply:

  1. Review the U-M author's addendum
  2. Attach the addendum to the agreement sent by the publisher, sign, and return it along with the original agreement.
  3. Make a copy for your records.
  4. Include a note or cover letter alerting the publisher that it's there.

If you are lucky, the publisher will accept it without objection or with minor adjustments. However, if the publisher insists that no changes can be made to the original agreement, it is up to you to decide whether you still wish to publish with that journal, even if you can't keep all of the rights you want.

Self-Archiving Your Work

Self-archiving is the act of storing a version of your published paper on a personal website or institutional repository, such as Deep Blue, in order to make it freely available to the public. By self-archiving published or pre-print versions of papers, author's retain the freedom to publish in the journal of their choosing while still making a free version available.

Steps to Self-Archiving

  1. Use SHERPA/RoMEO to identify what version of your paper the publisher or publication will allow to be self-archived.
    1. If a publication does not permit self-archiving or only allows self-archiving of pre-prints (version of your paper before peer-review), consider using the U-M author's addendum when signing your author agreement in order to regain your right to self-archive.
    2. If you've already published your paper or the publisher/publication self-archiving information is not available, consider contacting the journal editor and seek permission to self-archive.
  2. After determining the version that can be self-archived, add the paper to your personal website or learn how to deposit your paper in Deep Blue.

U-M Author's Addendum

Attach the U-M Author's Addendum to publishing contracts to secure certain distribution and re-use rights and ensure you do not inadvertently lose rights you desire to keep. The rights secured include:

  • the ability to deposit a copy in Deep Blue
  • make non-commercial educational use
  • posting a copy on the author’s personal website

If you have questions about using the Author’s Addendum, feel free to email us at copyright@umich.edu.