Copyright and Publishing


Understanding the copyright ownership of the research outputs you produce is an essential part of the publishing process. Whether you are publishing a journal article, book chapter, conference proceeding, dataset, or any other output, there will be copyright considerations. Usually, creative works are protected by copyright automatically, but as these works are published, copyright ownership can change.

Subscription Journals

When publishing a paper in a subscription journal (i.e., behind a paywall), it is likely that you assign copyright ownership of your paper to the publisher of the journal. This means that, as the author, you no longer own the paper yourself, and you would need to ask the publisher’s permission to share and reuse any substantial parts of the work. In many cases, copyright agreements with publishers grant the author certain reuse rights over the paper. This could include permission to upload the full text to an institutional repository, for example, although in many cases publishers insist there must be delayed access to the full text, known as an embargo period. It is also likely that this reuse is only permitted for the Author’s Accepted Manuscript (AAM) version of the paper, rather than the final published version.

When choosing a journal to publish with, it’s essential that you are aware of the copyright ownership after publication, and the conditions of reuse. Some journals will allow you to request a change to the default copyright agreement, so it is worth asking. It is especially important to be aware of the copyright ownership if your research is funded, and this will be discussed further below.

Open Access Journals

When publishing a journal article open access (i.e., making the paper freely available online, with few or no restrictions on reuse), the author keeps all rights to their work, including the final published version. The journal then has a licence to publish. This kind of agreement means you are free to share and reuse the work how you choose.

When publishing your work in an open access journal, you choose a creative commons licence to assign to your work. Creative commons licences have different elements that can be incorporated together in the way that suits your preferences. Below is a table explaining the different elements of creative commons licences:

CC-BY: Reuse allowed as long as the author or licensor gets credit (attribution).

CC-BY-SA: Licensees are allowed to distribute modified work, but only under a licence that is the same or ‘not more restrictive’ as the original work’s licence.

CC-BY-NC: Reuse is allowed, but only for non-commercial purposes.

CC-BY-ND: Reuse is allowed, but there can be no modifications from the original.

If your research is funded, you may be restricted as to which licence you can use. Research funders often ask for a CC-BY licence to be placed on outputs resulting from their funding. A CC-BY licence is the least restrictive of the creative commons licences, aside from CC0 (which releases work into the public domain). In the humanities, CC-BY-ND is also fairly common. The implications of the licence you assign to your work should always be thought through carefully, as once you have assigned a licence this cannot be changed. If you have questions about which licence to choose, get in touch with us.

Funder Requirements

If your research is funded by a cOAlition S funder, including UKRI* and Wellcome, you will need to follow one of the following routes for journal article publication to comply with your funder’s policy:

  • Publish in a fully gold open access journal
  • Publish in a journal that is covered by one of the institution’s read and publish agreements
  • Make the full text of your author’s accepted manuscript available open access immediately on publication (zero-month embargo period), and assign a CC-BY licence

*This applies to UKRI-funded peer-reviewed research articles submitted for publication on or after 1 April 2022. See UKRI’s open access policy for more details.

If you are publishing in a fully gold open access journal, or a journal covered by one of our read and publish agreements, you will retain the copyright to your work, as explained in the above section on open access journals. However, if you are publishing in a subscription journal, or a hybrid journal not covered by a read and publish agreement, you need to deposit the full text of your paper with a zero-month embargo period and a CC-BY licence to comply with your funder’s open access policy. This licence can be applied to the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) or Version of Record (VoR), though in most cases it will be the AAM. When following this route to compliance with your funder’s policy, you must be aware of the journal’s open access policy before submitting your paper.

This is because, in order to ensure you can deposit the full text of your paper in a repository with a zero-month embargo period, you must notify the journal and assign a CC-BY licence to the paper (usually the AAM) before submitting to the journal. This licence becomes known as a “prior licence”. Once you have assigned this prior licence to the work, legally, the journal policy cannot overrule this licence. To do this, you can use the following statement on submission to the journal:

“This research was funded in whole or in part by [Funder] [Grant number]. 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 statement is known as the Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) statement, as it allows you to retain the rights on your work. With these rights, you will be able to reuse the AAM however you choose, regardless of the journal policy. This ensures that any mismatches between the funder and journal policies does not lead you to be in breach of either.

The RRS statement is a key tool for complying with funder policies, but it can also be used by unfunded researchers who wish to retain the copyright on their AAMs. Doing so enables broader reuse of your work, especially if you publish in a subscription journal.

In some cases, publishers may not be happy with authors retaining rights on their author accepted manuscripts, and may try to redirect your submission to a fully gold open access journal, or reject your paper. If you come across this situation, or have any questions about using the RRS statement at all, please do get in touch.

Helpful Tools

  • cOAlition S journal checker tool – enables cOAlition S funded researchers to check which route to compliance they need to use.
  • Sherpa Romeo – provides summaries of publisher copyright and open access archiving policies on a journal-by-journal basis.


If you are publishing a monograph, or a book chapter, it is likely that your publisher will provide a copyright agreement for you to read through and sign. With monograph publishing, the publisher usually asks the author to assign certain rights. These agreements can vary quite a lot between publishers, so reading the copyright agreement in full before signing is important. Generally, there are three different outcomes:

  • Assign copyright – where the publisher now owns the work, but the author usually agrees to a rate for royalties or payment.
  • Exclusive rights – the author usually keeps the copyright but is not allowed to publish or disseminate the work elsewhere.
  • Non-exclusive rights – the author usually keeps the copyright, but can disseminate elsewhere, as long as they don’t republish with another publisher.
  • Open access monographs – the author retains the copyright and gives the publisher a licence to publish the work. The author assigns a CC licence to the work that has usually been agreed with the publisher

Funder policies for monograph open access publishing do not yet require open access publication in the same way as for journal articles. However, from 1 January 2024 the UKRI’s open access policy will extend to monographs, book chapters and edited collections. It is therefore expected that the next REF will also have some requirements for open access monograph publishing. We are already investigating institutionally how we can support these requirements going forward, and will offer further updates as and when we are able.

Copyright and Publishing Video

For more information about copyright and publishing, watch our short video that covers lots of the themes discussed above, and more!

More information

If you would like more information or have any questions, please get in touch with the Library and Cultural Services’ Research Support team via


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