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Monograph Publisher Contracts or Agreements

As the author of a work, you are the copyright holder unless and until you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement. An author who has transferred copyright without retaining any rights may not be able to place the work on course web sites, copy it for students or colleagues, deposit the work in Cougar ROAR, or reuse portions in a subsequent work. Remember that transferring copyright doesn't have to be all or nothing and publisher agreements are negotiable.

What are your options when presented with a publisher's agreement?

  1. Transfer all of your rights to the publisher (most common, "default" option)
  2. Transfer the copyright to the publisher but retain certain rights (often requires negotiating with the publisher)
  3. Retain all of your rights and license the rights to the publisher (common to publishing with open access publishers)

Questions to ask before signing a copyright transfer agreement

Before signing away the rights to your research, carefully consider the following set of questions, which will help you determine which of your rights are most important to the future life of your scholarship. These are the rights you will want to retain as you progress through the contract negotiation process with your publisher.

  • Would you like to send copies of the article to colleagues?
  • Do you want to post a copy on your course Web site?
  • Do you want to include a copy with your online CV?
  • Do you want to deposit a copy in the UH Institutional Repository or other open access digital repository?
  • Do you want to publish a translation of the article in another language?
  • Do you want to distribute copies for a conference presentation?
  • Do you want to assign it as a reading to students?

Termination of Transfer

In the U.S., termination of transfers laws enable authors to regain rights in their works that might have been signed away—even if their contracts contain language to the contrary. Many authors use terminations because their works have become commercially successful, and they want to recapture rights to enjoy more of their work’s financial success. Other authors pursue termination of transfer after their work falls out of print, or is otherwise not as widely available as they might wish it to be. For these authors who want their works to be widely shared and enjoyed—who want to take advantage of an internet ecosystem that might not have existed when they signed that contract all those years ago—termination of transfers is a powerful option for getting their works back out in front of audiences. However, the statute requires that authors wait at least 35 years to exercise this right (and serve notice between two and ten years in advance), and the law is far from simple.

The Termination of Transfer tool linked below allows authors to learn more about termination of transfers laws as well as a tool to check a work's eligibility. Contact Taylor Davis-Van Atta in UH Libraries ( to schedule a time to discuss this option.

[Source: adapted with permission from Authors Alliance]

Returning Authors’ Rights: The Authors Alliance/Creative Commons Termination of Transfer Tool This tool is designed to raise awareness of the termination of transfer provisions, to encourage authors to figure out whether the termination rights of U.S. copyright law may be relevant to their works, and to help people understand how termination of transfer works. It does so with explanatory materials and by explaining how hypothetical scenarios would work under the laws for termination of transfer. This tool is provided for educational and awareness-raising purposes only—it is not legal advice or analysis and cannot substitute for the services of an attorney.

[Source: Authors Alliance, under CC 4.0 license.)

Rights Reversion

If your goal is to broaden your readership by making your own decisions about how to make your work available, you might want to consider “rights reversion.” A right of reversion is a contractual provision that permits authors to work with their publishers to regain some or all of the rights in their books when certain conditions are met. But authors may also be able to revert rights even if they have not met the triggering conditions in their contract, or if their contracts do not have a reversion clause at all! Reversion can be a powerful tool for authors, but many authors do not know where to start.

Below are several resources that allow you to learn more about rights reversion. Contact Taylor Davis-Van Atta in UH Libraries ( to discuss this option further.

[Source: adapted with permission from Authors Alliance]

Understanding Rights Reversion: When, Why, & How to Regain Copyright and Make Your Book More Available

This guide, published by Authors Alliance, arms authors with the information and strategies they need to revive their books.

Rights reversion templates

Authors Alliance offers templates and guidance on how to craft a persuasive rights reversion letter to your publisher.