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Copyright Quick Tips - You Are the Author of An Article

Last reviewed March 2008

If you comply with a publisher's request to sign over the copyright for your article as a condition of publication, then you no longer own the right to distribute your article. When another scientist asks you for a copy of your article, your options are:

  • Request permission from the publisher to make your article available from your Web site in either HTML or PDF format. A template of a request for permission follows this text. If the publisher turns you down, you may not distribute your article via the Web. If the publisher grants your request, put the following information in a prominent place: "Copyright [publisher] 20XX. Permission to redistribute granted by copyright holder"
  • If you have a high tolerance for risk, you might choose to post the article on your Web site in either HTML or PDF format while you are waiting for permission from the publisher to do so. If you choose to follow this course, write a letter to the publisher requesting permission to post the article. Then put the following information in a prominent place: "Permission pending." If the publisher denies your request, remove the article immediately from your Web site. If the publisher grants you permission to post for a specific period of time, such as a year, put a note on your calendar and remove the article from your Web site at that time or re-request permission to post.
  • Take advantage of your publisher's offer to sell you reprints of your article. You may send these out without further delay or payment of royalties.
  • Email the requester a PDF file of your article or mail a photocopy. Pay the Copyright Clearance Center's Transactional Reporting Service, www.copyright.com, a royalty for making the copy to give away.
  • Tell the requester that you are unable to supply a copy of the article.

Are there alternatives to signing over your copyright?

  • Sometimes not. Some publishers will not publish your article unless you relinquish your copyright. If you choose to publish with these publishers, you accept their copyright policies. UT Southwestern expects you to honor publishers' intellectual property rights.
  • If your research is directly funded by a government agency, then your publisher's claim to copyright for your article is still valid, but no royalties are due. In essence, you may distribute copies of government funded research results without liability for royalties. You must still, however, make certain that the publisher's copyright is obvious to readers.
  • You may negotiate your copyright agreement with the publisher. Some publishers will agree to share copyright with you. Some publishers will agree to return copyright to you at a date in the future, such as one year after publication. Some publishers will accept the right of first publication, while you retain control over subsequent use of the article.
  • You may publish your article in one of the growing number of scientific publishing outlets that do not require the author to relinquish copyright. These outlets are, for the most part, electronic.

For more information about copyright in the university setting, UT Southwestern Library recommends the following UT System resources:

Sample Letter Requesting Permission
To Provide a Copy of an Article


Permissions Department
[Address: call Library for this information]

Dear Permissions Editor:

I am writing to ask your permission to [photocopy/link to a digital version of] a journal article which I authored. Specifics of the article are as follows:

[all authors]
[article title]
[journal title]
[volume ##] [issue ##] [page ##s] [date of issue]

I wish to [photocopy this article to fulfill requests from fellow scientists/make this article available to fellow scientists via my laboratory's Web site]. I expect to distribute approximately [???] copies over [describe period of time].

Please indicate your approval of this request by signing and returning one copy of this letter using the enclosed stamped, self-addressed envelope. If you do not solely control copyright for this article, I would appreciate any information you can provide about other to whom I should write, including most recent addresses if available.


[Author's name]
[Author's address]

Copyright Holder's Permission