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Copyright Overview

An overview of copyright and related issues.

Clearing Copyright

If you've already signed a Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA) or given away your author's rights, but you want to post your work on a personal website, on ScholarWorks@GSU, or on another repository you may still be able to do so, but you will need to find out what version of the work, if any, the publisher (i.e. copyright holder) allows. To do this there are four steps / tools:

  1. Check your copyright transfer or author's agreement - the paper that publisher had you sign before they published your work.
  2. Check the SHERPA/RoMEO for Publisher's Self-Archiving Policies to see what the policy is for the journal in which your work appears.
  3. Check the journal's and/or publisher's website.
  4. Email the journal / publisher.
Copyright clearance can be quick and easy, or it can be long and labor-intensive. Some times your CTA is very clear or you've used an author's addendum, and you're done at step one. Other times you have to go through all four steps to get an answer.

Checking Your Copyright Transfer Agreement

Look at your CTA and look for language referring to "self-archiving," "personal website," "institutional website," or "institutional repository" which generally tell you where and how you can post a copy of your article, and which version. If it's still unclear, move to step two.


SHERPA/RoMEO is a database of publisher copyright and self-archiving policies that authors can use to check which version of an article they may be allowed to add to ScholarWorks@GSU or their personal site. It's important to note that SHERPA/RoMEO only covers journals, not book publishers, and that not all journals are in the database. Publishers also update their policies from time to time, so there's no guarantee that SHERPA/RoMEO has the most current change to publisher policy posted, so authors may also want to check the publisher's website as well.

SHERPA/RoMEO classifies publishers into colors for easy identification:

  • Green - refers to publishers whose policies allow archiving of pre-print and post-print or publisher's version/PDF
  • Blue - refers to publishers whose policies allow archiving of post-print or publisher's version/PDF
  • Yellow - refers to publishers whose policies allow archiving of pre-print
  • White - refers to publishers whose policies do not formally support archiving any version

There are three basic version types that can be self-archived in repositories:

  • Pre-Prints – The author's copy of the article before it’s been reviewed by the publisher, or pre-reviewed. This version is also called the Author Submitted Manuscript.
  • Post-Prints – The author's copy of the article after it’s been reviewed and corrected, but before the publisher has formatted it for publication, or post-reviewed. This version is also called the Author Accepted Manuscript.
  • Publisher’s Version – The version that is formatted and appears in print or online. The version is also called the Version of Record.

Publisher's Websites

If you don't find your journal in SHERPA/RoMEO the next step is to search the journal or publisher's website. Look for a section on "self-archiving or "green open access." Once you find it, you are once again looking for the same type of language as you did in the Copyright Transfer Agreement or SHERPA/RoMEO. 

Contacting the Publisher

If you are unable to find such language or even the appropriate area on the publisher's website, look for contact information for the journal and/or the editor, an email address is best because it allows you to put the exchange in writing. 

When emailing the publisher make sure that you include the publication details / citation for the item in question: author(s), article title, journal title, volume, issue, page numbers. Tell them what you want to do with the item (the type of use), for example: to include it in your institution's institutional repository or your personal website. Specifically ask the publisher:

  1. who owns the copyright for the article.
  2. if the publisher owns them, then ask if you have their permission to use it for your described purpose.
  3. if they do give their permission for your use, ask which version you are allowed to post, and
  4. if they require any specific statement to accompany your use and, if so what the text of that statement should be. 

An example of a permission request might look like this:

Permissions Department / Managing Editor / Editor / etc.

I'd like to request permission to post the following article on


May I  have permission to post this paper in the repository? ScholarWorks @ GSU is fully open access, so the content would be discoverable and downloadable on the web, greatly expanding its reach. I will include a link back to the publisher site.

Please let me know if you have questions or need additional information.

Thank you,