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Publishing Academic Research: Understanding Publishers

This guide provides information about strategic publishing, publishing agreements, Open Access and ERA specifications.

Understanding Publishing agreements

When you submit a work to a publisher, you need to sign a publishing agreement. Note that the agreement may alternatively be called an author licence, contract, copyright transfer agreement or author agreement.

Before you sign the agreement, read it carefully and make sure you understand the publisher's conditions. If you don't, you may agree to conditions that will prevent you from sharing, communicating or reusing your work. Communicating your work includes loading it to ResearchOnline@JCU or other online sites. Reusing your work includes reproducing all or part (e.g. text, an image or diagram) of the work such in a presentation or future publication.

In reading a publisher agreement, check whether the publisher allows the following conditions. If conditions that are important to you are not specified, you can negotiate with the publisher to have them included. Conditions you might want to consider are:

  • Use the Work for further research and presentations at meetings and conferences; 
  • Share print or digital copies of the Work with colleagues for personal use or study;
  • Share print or digital copies of the Work with journalists for promotional purposes;
  • Include the Work in part or in full in a thesis provided it is not published for commercial gain;
  • Place the pre-published or published version of the Work on a personal website
  • Deposit the work in the Author’s institutional or funding body repository prior to publication, linking to the final published version on the publisher's website once published.

Assignment of copyright is usually permanent, unless stated otherwise. Publishing agreements are frequently irrevocable.

Publishing agreements vary between publishers and the type of publication e.g. a book, book chapter, journal article, conference paper.

If the publisher does not have a publishing agreement, the publisher can only publish the article for the purpose in which it was submitted. The publisher would not be able to re-publish the article elsewhere without permission from the author.

The agreement will address how copyright in the work will be managed e.g.:

  • Author assigns copyright to the publisher, granting all their rights as author and copyright owner to the publisher. If the author wants to do anything with the work in the future, they will need to seek permission from the publisher. In some agreements, the publisher may grant some rights back to the author.
  • Author assigns a non-exclusive licence to the publisher, granting the publisher the right to use the work only in the way specified in the agreement e.g. to publish the work in this instance, but otherwise the author retains their rights as the copyright owner.

Terms commonly used in publishing agreements

Accepted Version:  the final manuscript of a journal article as accepted for publication. This version incorporates the changes made as a result of the peer review process but not the publisher's copyediting and formatting. Equivalent terms are Accepted Manuscript and Postprint.

Exclusive Licence: a licence under which the licensee is the only person who can use the work in the way(s) covered by the license. In publishing agreements, the copyright owner may grant an exclusive licence to a publisher to publish the work. During the period of the licence, the copyright owner is not entitled to license another publisher to publish the work.

Nonexclusive Licence: a licence under which a copyright owner grants permission to another party to use their work but may continue to use their work or grant others permission to use the work in the way specified in the Licence. If possible, this is the best kind of licene to grant because it allows you grant identical or similar conditions to others and to continue using the work yourself in the way that you choose.

Published Version: The final version as published, including the publisher's copyediting and formatting.

Submitted Version: The version of a manuscript submitted to a journal editor, prior to peer review.  Equivalent term is Pre-Print.

Third Party Material: material used in a work for which another person / entity holds the rights.

Negotiating publishing agreements

Use the Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine to help you generate a PDF form, outlining certain rights that you wish to retain. Attach this form to the journal copyright agreement that you send to the publisher.

Some publishers will be more willing than others to modify their publishing agreement.

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