Author Addenda (for Retention of Copyright): An Examination of Five Alternatives

Peter Hirtle, from Cornell University, examines five author addenda as solutions to the transferring of author rights to publishers.

Excerpt from Author Addenda: An Examination of Five Alternatives, D-Lib Magazine, November 2006, vol. 12, no. 11

The Problem:
When an author publishes a book or a paper, many publishers ask the author to transfer all copyrights in the work to the publisher. But that is not always to the author’s advantage.

When authors assign to publishers all of the rights that comprise the bundle of rights known as copyright, they lose control over their scholarly output. Assignment of copyright ownership may limit the ability of authors to incorporate elements into future articles and books. Authors may not be able to use their own work in their teaching, or to authorize others at the institution or elsewhere to use materials.

Unless addressed in the transfer agreement, the publisher may forbid an author to do the following:
• Post the work to the author’s own web site, an institutional repository, or a subject-based repository.
• Copy the work for distribution to students.
• Use the work as the basis for future articles or other works.
• Give permission for the work to be used in a course at the author’s institution.
• Grant permission to faculty and students at other universities to use the material.
For all of the above reasons, many organizations and institutions have encouraged authors to better manage their copyrights.

One Solution: the Author’s Addenda:
Until recently, the primary method that authors could use to retain some rights in their writings was to rewrite the contract with the publishers themselves. Thanks to the development of standardized author addenda, the task has become much simpler. An author’s addendum is a standardized legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows the author to keep key rights.