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Institutional repositories deal with copyright issues on two fronts:

  • In collecting content from scholars, by which they must secure the rights to distribute and preserve the content; and,
  • In distributing content to end users, by which they must balance the tenets of open access with copyright protection.

Traditionally, authors submitting an article to a journal transfer copyright (which is actually a bundle of rights) to the publisher by signing the publisher’s “Copyright Transfer Agreement” (CTA). Included in this bundle of rights is the right to publish the work, which is precisely what the author seeks to achieve. Many publishing agreements, however, impose severe restrictions on the use of the work. In some cases these can even affect the author’s own use of his/her work in teaching and research.

It is perfectly possible for authors to have their work published without signing over all rights. Some rights can be retained by authors, allowing them to do what they want in terms of dissemination through alternative channels as well as through the journal in which they have chosen to publish. The most common way of achieving this is for the publisher to have a “License to Publish” (LTP) and for the author to retain the rest of the bundle of rights. Publishers can use such devices to acquire the rights they need to publish the work without acquiring the rest of the rights related to the work.

Several websites have useful information and links to sites where potential contributors can go to learn about their rights and responsibilities on copyright.

An important source for basic information about publishers’ policies regarding self-archiving is SHERPA/ROMEO.

The simplest approach to ensuring that work can be made Open Access without any problem is to retain the right to do so. Authors can, however, retain the rights they need to make their work openly available by negotiating with the publisher.


a- Content Licenses

Content licenses are the legal agreements through which content can be distributed. Typically, an institutional repository might have the following two licenses:

  1. Deposit license: An agreement between the author, creator or copyright holder and the institution giving the repository the right to distribute and preserve the work.
  2. Distribution license: An agreement between the author, creator or copyright holder and the end user governing the uses that can be made of the work.

b- Creative Commons License (CC)

If an article carries no license information at all it is not clear to users what they may do with it. May they extract a graph or table and put it in another document? May they take numerical data and add them to an existing separate database? May they use passages from the text to illustrate an argument in digital teaching materials placed on the Web? A proper, appropriate licensing sets out the conditions for re-use and reassures users that they may use the material in particular ways with impunity.

If a CC license appears with an article, it is the CC license that determines how the article may be used.

The Creative Commons organization has developed a set of licenses from which authors or publishers can choose. Some Open Access publishers use Creative Commons licenses to ensure that the contents of the articles published in their journals are reusable in the widest (Open Access) sense: that is, they can be reproduced, abstracted, “mashed up” with other material to produce new information, crawled by text-mining and data-mining tools and so on.

An explanation of these licenses and how they can be used to best effect is provided on the Creative Commons website.

LAUR has chosen to distribute articles under its Open Access rules and regulations using one of the standard Creative Commons (CC) licenses, namely “the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license.” 
This particular CC license means that authors are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit the work) and remix (adapt) the work under the following conditions: 

  • Attribution: The work must be attributed in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggest that they endorse the author’s use of his/her work).
  • Noncommercial: The work may not be used for commercial purposes.                  

Journal articles

The first copyright of a literary work, such as a journal article, is held by the author(s) of that work. However, when an article is published, typically the author assigns copyright — or gives a copyright license — to the publisher. Although the majority of publishers and journals allow authors to subsequently archive that work under certain conditions, other publishers are more restrictive. Depending on the particular agreement that is signed, the author retains more or less rights to use the article. Some agreements forbid the author from photocopying the article, using it in teaching, or putting it online. Other agreements are more liberal and allow the author to retain rights to use the article as he or she wishes.

LAUR policy doesn’t apply to articles that were completed before the policy was adopted nor to any articles for which faculty entered into an incompatible publishing agreement before the policy was adopted. The policy also does not apply to any articles written after the author has left LAU.

This policy applies to all peer-reviewed, published scholarly journal articles and conference proceedings written while the author is a member of the faculty of LAU and written after the formal adoption of this policy. Faculty members shall submit all such scholarly articles for addition to the LAUR.

While this policy only covers peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings, in order to provide a complete record of the scholarly output at LAU faculty are strongly encouraged to provide bibliographical data and, where possible, the full text of any other publication (such as chapters and essays in edited volumes, reference articles, non-peer-reviewed articles and monographs) for inclusion in the repository. The repository will provide links to the final published versions of all publications whenever possible.


Permissions normally differ for the inclusion of book content from that of journal articles, even within the same publishing office. RoMEO does not cover book copyright agreements. Therefore it is best to review the copyright transfer agreements signed by the author or any equivalents available on the publisher’s website, with the author contacting publishers directly if necessary.

Requesting a waiver

A faculty member may formally designate that a specific scholarly work is not to be disseminated by requesting a waiver. Reasons for doing so may include the existence of an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the existence of this policy or the reasonable potential for the author to expect to receive royalties for the work. However, faculty members may opt out of such dissemination of a scholarly work for any other reason.

The waiver option should apply only to the granting of rights to LAU (also called The License or The Permission), not to the deposit in the repository. Faculty are encouraged to deposit their articles in the repository even if they obtain waivers. They may do so through dark or non-OA deposits.

If a deposit is dark, at least the metadata should be OA. A reason to allow dark deposits is to facilitate search indexing and discovery of work which, for whatever reason, cannot yet be made OA.

Requesting to use published material

A request template can be used to compose a letter to a publisher asking for permission to include material in a repository on behalf of an academic author. Some publishers insist on the author writing or emailing them directly to request permission to mount copies in a repository. In such cases, it may be useful to provide the author with an alternate template to help them construct his/her request.

Requesting to use third party material

When submitting an article or other work that includes third-party material protected by copyright — such as an image — for distribution through the Repository you need to have the right to incorporate that material and to allow it to be posted in the repository as part of your work. Under some circumstances, Fair Use may allow you to include the third-party material, in which event you need no further authorization. If not, you need appropriate permission from the third-party rights holder.

If you cannot obtain the rights to distribute the third-party material in the repository as part of your work, you can (and should) still deposit the article under the “metadata only” option.


Some authors are worried that open access will increase the incentive to plagiarize their work. An institutional repository is certainly a plagiarizable resource. However, the high visibility of articles supports the ready detection of plagiarism. It is much easier to detect plagiarism in an open, online environment than in a paper-only world.