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Scholarly publishing: Copyright

The Author-Publisher Agreement: Retaining Your Rights as an Author

Depending on the terms governing your research, copyright in your research manuscript might be owned by you, by NUS, or by the body funding your research.

You are ... Governing Terms  Who Owns Copyright Before Publication?

an NUS Student 

NUS IP Policy Clause F(3); 
Singapore Copyright Act 

You own the copyright in your academic thesis and dissertations

an NUS Employee

NUS IP Policy Clause F(2); and the terms of your employment contract

You may not own copyright in the manuscript in these situations:

  • You are a non-academic staff, and the  manuscript was created in pursuance of the terms of your employment with NUS. In this case NUS owns copyright (Clause F(2)(a)(i), NUS IP Policy)
  • The manuscript was commissioned by the University or was created at the direction of the university for a specific university purpose. In this case NUS owns copyright (Clause F(2)(a)(ii), NUS IP Policy).  
  • The manuscript was written pursuant to a specific agreement between the university and you/another institution or entity, in which case ownership depends on the terms of the agreement (Clause F(2)(b), NUS IP Policy)
  • The manuscript was written pursuant to a grant or third party contract. In this case, you, NUS, or the body funding your research, may also own the copyright. It depends on the terms of the grant or contract (Clause F(2)(c), NUS IP Policy).

You own copyright in the manuscript if none of the above situations describe yours.

If you own the copyright, it means that you have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display and modify your manuscript.

When publishing your manuscript in a journal, most of the time, you will have to sign an Author-Publisher agreement.

The traditional Author-Publisher agreement requires you transfer ownership of copyrights to the journal. It also likely prohibits self-archiving i.e. depositing a free copy of your manuscript online in order to provide open access to it. This means you might lose your right to the subsequent use of your manuscript.

Are there options that will allow you to retain your rights?

The answer is yes. Here are your options.

  • Publish in a journal with self-archiving friendly agreements
  • Modify the Author-Publisher agreement to allow you to retain certain rights
  • Use an alternative agreement
Options What might be helpful? How will it help?

Publish in a journal with self-archiving friendly agreements

Sherpa Romeo

Publishers have different policies regarding self-archiving and use of your published manuscript.

The SHERPA/RoMEO database allows you to check publishers’ policies on copyright and self-archiving. Before submitting your manuscript to a publisher, you may want to check this database to determine how you can use your manuscript before and after publication. For instance, you can find out whether the publisher allows you to upload your manuscript in a pre-print and/or post-print version in an open access repository such as ScholarBank@NUS.

Modify the publication agreement to allow you to retain certain rights

SPARC

In most Author-Publisher agreements, copyright is vested in the publisher rather than the author. A restrictive Author-Publisher agreement would limit access to your manuscript if you wish to archive your publications online.

SPARC in partnership with Creative Commons has produced a legal instrument known as the SPARC Author Addendum. The addendum modifies the traditional publisher agreement to allow you to retain the right to self-archive your manuscript in an institutional repository. For more information on the SPARC Author Addendum and how to use it, please see here

SPARC is based on US law and drafted by US lawyers, so it might not be fully applicable to the local context. For detailed advice on this, please approach the NUS Office of Legal Affairs. 

Use an alternative agreement Creative Commons

You might wish to seek options to incorporate different licensing arrangements to govern the publication of your article.

Creative Commons licenses can be used to provide you with the ability to deal with your manuscript after publication. You might wish to seek OLA’s advice to incorporate the Creative Commons licensing arrangement into the traditional Author-Publisher agreement.

You might also wish to publish in a journal which implements Creative Commons licenses e.g. Springer Open, Public Library of Science (PLOS), Oxford Open Journals (OUP).

About Copyright in Singapore

Copyright is defined as “The right to copy; specifically, a property right in an original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, giving the holder the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, perform, and display the work” and “The body of law relating to such works” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th ed, 2014).

Copyright under the laws of Singapore is governed by a mixture of legislation and case law. To learn more about copyright law in Singapore, you may view the presentation on “Copyright – What do you need to know?” by Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP. In particular, slide 9 provides an overview of copyright ownership under the Singapore Copyright Act, which should be read with the NUS IP Policy and the terms of your agreement.

You may also visit the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) website for basic information on copyright law in Singapore. In particular, their Copyright Infopack may be instructive.

Reproducing copyright material

Most major publishers allow users to apply for copyright permissions online via Rightslink service by Copyright Clearance Center.

Copyright First Responder Help

If you have any basic queries on general Copyright matters, please email cjkohlib@nus.edu.sg. In-depth queries will be escalated to the Office of Legal Affairs.

Please note that the content of this website is meant for general information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal counsel and does not constitute legal advice.