What Is Rights Retention?

Adopting a rights retention strategy can allow researchers to freely share their peer-reviewed and revised manuscripts immediately upon publication.

By including a rights retention statement in the submitted manuscripts of journal articles and conference papers, authors can retain rights to openly license their Author Accepted Manuscripts (AAMs). This allows AAMs to be shared in an open access repository without embargo.

Rights retention statements, also called rights retention clauses or rights retention language, often read as follows:

"For the purposes of open access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission."

The above example is from the University’s Principles for Open Access, which encourages researchers to include an author rights retention statement when submitting journal articles and conference papers.

Principles for Open Access to Research Outputs at Melbourne

Rights retention is also a key aspect of the Plan S open access initiative and is required of NHMRC grant holders subject to the 2022 NHMRC Open Access Policy. Additional guidance on the author rights retention requirements of the 2022 NHMRC Open Access Policy can be found on our Funder open access policies page.

Funder open access policies

Rights retention can enable immediate open access in our institutional repository, Minerva Access. You can find out more about the repository pathway to open access on our What is Open Access? page, or explore how to use our repositories on the Repository Open Access page.

Rights Retention FAQ

  • Where in the submission do I place the rights retention statement?

    Rights retention statements are typically included in the “Acknowledgements" section, or equivalent, of your submitted manuscript.

    It is also best practice to include the statement in the submission’s accompanying cover letter, or in a note to the editor.

  • My publisher website says they will not publish articles with rights retention statements in subscription journals. What should I do?

    Policies stated on publisher websites can be the starting point for negotiation.

    Publisher or journal websites often state that an embargo must be applied to Author Accepted Manuscripts (AAMs) in repositories. However, these can often be reduced or eliminated through negotiation, especially when open access is mandated by a funder.

  • My publisher says I retain copyright – isn’t that enough?

    In many cases, no. If you sign an exclusive licence or agreement with your publisher, this usually involves signing over all rights of copyright, even if you retain copyright by name. This means that, for the duration of the copyright term, the publisher holds exclusive rights to publish, re-publish, monetise, and make derivatives (such as translations) of your work. Then, despite being the work’s author, you can only share manuscript versions in a repository if the publisher allows it.

    However, if you have signed a limited or non-exclusive licence or agreement with your publisher, you should retain copyright and all rights of copyright. This would allow you to share manuscripts of your article – including the peer-reviewed Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) – anywhere, at any time, and under any Creative Commons licence you choose to apply.

    Our Copyright website has further guidance on understanding publishing agreements.

  • Can I add a rights retention statement after submission?

    Rights retention statements should be included in the initial submission of a manuscript to a journal or conference proceedings. You can attempt to negotiate the inclusion of a rights retention statement after manuscript submission (for example, after peer-review), but publishers may be reluctant to accept its inclusion.

    Nonetheless, negotiating with your publisher to retain your rights as an author is still worthwhile. For further information and guidance, see the “negotiating author rights” section of the understanding publishing agreements page on our Copyright website.

  • What is the Plan S or cOAlition S Rights Retention Strategy?

    In 2020, a group of research funders known as cOAlition S announced their Plan S Rights Retention Strategy. The strategy involves authors pre-emptively applying Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licences to their Author Accepted Manuscripts (AAMs). This allows funded researchers to comply with Plan S principles for immediate open access to their grant-related journal articles.

    The Wellcome Trust, for example, is a cOAlition S member and, like the NHMRC, has fully implemented rights retention requirements. Since 2021, Wellcome Trust grant conditions have required that all submissions of original research to peer-reviewed journals contain an acknowledgement of funding and a rights retention statement.

    Find out more on the Plan S Rights Retention Strategy page and their accompanying resources, or read more about Plan S on our Funder open access policies page.

  • Have other universities adopted rights retention strategies?

    Yes, many universities have adopted author rights retention or institutional rights retention policies. These include:

    Furthermore, in 2020, the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) published a project report, Intellectual property rights retention in scholarly works at Australian universities, that recommended universities implement rights retention policies and called for stronger rights retention approaches nationally.

  • Has rights retention been successful in practice?

    Reflecting on cOAlition S’s Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) a year after its launch, Rumsey (2022) points to “numerous examples of authors who have used the RRS and made their article freely available in a repository whilst the publisher’s version remains behind a paywall.” The main obstacle, she observes, is that some publishers attempt to make authors sign conflicting publishing agreements prior to publication, “despite having been previously informed about the RRS and fully aware that requirements are embedded in authors’ grant contracts.”

    After a 12-month pilot at the University of Cambridge, rights retention was built into a new Self-Archiving Policy on 1 April 2023. Tumelty (2023) reflected that, when implementing rights retention, “there was no issue for most articles, but some publishers caused confusion through misinformation or by presenting conflicting licences for the researchers to sign.” Moore (2022) had earlier reflected that, during the Cambridge pilot, rights retention was accepted by most journals, including titles from Elsevier, Wiley, SAGE, and Springer Nature. Some journals, however, only accepted rights retention if it was funder mandated, or requested the removal of rights retention statements when an open access publishing agreement was in place. A few others tried to get conflicting licences signed upon acceptance, while a small number of society journals rejected rights retention altogether.

    The University of Edinburgh also wrote a blog post reflecting on the first nine months of their new rights retention policy in 2022. During this period, over 90% of their journal articles were available open access, most within one month of publication (U Edinburgh Library, 2022).

Further Support

For enquiries relating to depositing research outputs in Minerva Access, including the submission of Author Accepted Manuscripts with rights retention statements, please email research-outputs@unimelb.edu.au.

For enquiries relating to copyright and licence agreeme<pnts, contact the Copyright Office.

For other enquiries relating to open access and scholarly publishing, please contact your Faculty or Subject Liaison Librarians.

Page last updated 6 December 2023.

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