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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

CUNY Academic Works: Check the copyright

How to post your work to our institutional repository

Copyright, green open access, and CUNY Academic Works

Who holds the copyright to your published article?  Often it is the publisher, not the author.  To post work on CUNY Academic Works, you must either hold the copyright, or have the approval of the copyright holder.

Many journals now permit authors to self-archive a version of their work on institutional repositories.
This is called self-archiving, or green open access.  A few publishers permit authors to post the final, published PDF, but more usually, it is only the post-peer review, final author's draft that may be posted. You can include a link to the  version of record on the publisher’s site. 

Some publishers require an embargo period.  But don't wait till then to post your work on CUNY Academic Works; just set an embargo date, and the metadata describing the work will be visible but the work itself will not appear until after the date you specify.

Publishers that permit green open access /self-archiving usually say so on the journal website, in the instructions to authors, or under open access.    SHERPA/RoMEO (UK) collects journal publishers' archiving policies (note CUNY has not verified that information). E.g. 

Note that when you post work to CUNY Academic Works, you will be granting to CUNY the non-exclusive right to archive and distribute the work through CUNY Academic Works and any successor initiatives. This means if we migrate from the current platform to a better one, you have given us the right to bring the content over too, and we will not have to ask you again.  Entering into this agreement does not alter your copyright or other rights you may hold.

Have you already signed a contract with a publisher?

If you already signed a publishing contract with a conventional publisher, you should first evaluate the terms of your contract to determine if it allows you to make your work openly accessible and, if so, under what terms. If it does not, you may need to work with your publisher to secure permission or regain the right to make your work openly accessible. Publishers are often open to work with authors to make their works available in the way the author wants, particularly when a work is no longer profitable to the publisher.

For more information on how to understand the terms in your existing contract and how to work with your publisher, see the Authors Alliance guide Understanding Rights Reversion: When, Why, and How to Regain Copyright and Make Your Book More Available.

Are you preparing to sign a contract with a publisher?

As open access has become more common, conventional publishers have become more amenable to including open-access-friendly terms in their contract, either by default or upon negotiation with the author. If you have not already signed a publishing contract with a conventional publisher, the following four steps may help you work out an open-access-friendly agreement.

  1. Familiarize yourself with common conditions on open access and decide what level of openness is right for you. Sometimes conventional publishers place conditions on an author's open dissemination in order to balance the publisher's profit-making potential with the author's desire to make the work openly accessible. For example, some publishers request an "embargo period," during which time the publisher has the exclusive right to make the work available. Others specify which version of an article an author can make openly accessible (i.e. the publisher's PDF, the author's accepted manuscript, or the submitted version).
  2. Read and understand the terms of the publisher's default contract. Many publishing contracts for academic articles include provisions that allow authors to self-archive in an open access repository, often subject to restrictions on what version of an article can be uploaded and when it may be uploaded. The SHERPA/RoMEO database contains information about more than 22,000 journal publishers’ self-archiving policies and is a good place to start researching potential publishers. In addition, you should always read and understand the terms of the publisher’s contract itself. Look out for language that says you transfer or assign your entire copyright to the publisher, or refers to your work as a “work made for hire,” or says that you are granting an exclusive license to the publisher.
  3. Contact the publisher.
    • Just ask: Some authors find it sufficient to simply tell a publisher that they want to self-archive their work in an open access repository like CUNY Academic Works or on a personal website and request contract terms that are compatible with that goal.
    • Submit an addendum: Another common approach is to attach an addendum to your publishing contract that modifies the original publishing contract and permits the author to make the work openly accessible. Check out the Copyright Addendum Generator or the SPARC Addendum to Publication Agreement.
    • Modify the language of the contract itself: Authors who already have a comfort level with navigating contracts may consider modifying the publisher’s contract directly to retain the right to make their works openly accessible.
    • Agree to quid pro quo.
  4. What if the publisher denies your request? If the publisher pushes back against your initial attempts to retain your rights, this is not necessarily the end of negotiations. The following strategies have worked for other authors:
    • Ask the publisher to explain why it is rejecting your request.
    • Explain why your suggested modifications are important to you.
    • If available, show the publisher other contracts that reserve rights to open access.
    • Let the publisher know if there are other publishers that could publish your work, especially if those publishers are willing to give you the right to make your work openly accessible.
    • Consider making additional compromises that help both you and the publisher meet your goals. For example, a temporary embargo period or submitting the author's manuscript in place of the final, published version.

In responding to publisher pushback, authors should keep in mind that their works, and the copyrights in them, are valuable and carry weight in negotiations. Authors may find they have more bargaining power to retain open access rights in negotiations with conventional publishers than they initially expect.


Paragraphs above have been adapted from the Authors Alliance guide Understanding Open Access: When, Why, & How to Make Your Work Openly Accessible, made available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Copyright © 2015 Authors Alliance, CC BY 4.0