Copyright and Rights Retention

Rights retention is a practice where authors retain the copyright of their work during the publication process rather than transferring it to the publisher, which had become a standard practice in academic publishing, particularly of journal articles. At some point during the publication process, an author will be asked to sign a form which transfers the copyright to the publisher. This means that the publisher can do what they want with the content of the article; they can charge others who wish to use it, including the author themselves. The Library's Copyright for Researchers Guidance contains some more information about this.

Several research funders including Science Foundation Ireland, the European Commission and European Research Council are members of Coalition S, which supports Plan S, an initiative to make all research publications free to read and openly accessible. A key principle of Plan S is that authors retain the rights to their work. As a condition of the funding, researchers are required to include standard 'rights retention language' in the submission letter or acknowledgements when they are submitting an article. For example:

"For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) version arising from this submission."

This language will allow researchers to retain rights over the version of the final text of their article, following peer review corrections, but before the publisher's typesetting has been applied. In the case of SFI funded research, if the publisher refuses to accept rights retention language, contact your SFI Project Officer and ask for further details of how you should proceed.

To support researchers, institutions can also adopt a rights retention policy which allows the institution to post a copy of the author’s accepted manuscript version of a journal article (the final version of the text before typesetting) on an institutional repository, such as Arrow. Many institutions across Europe and in the UK have adopted this approach and TU Dublin are exploring it at present.

If you are in receipt of funding from SFI or the European Commission and/or are unsure what to do to ensure you retain your rights or have received confusing information from a publisher, please contact a member of ORSU who can advise.