Depositing your work in Digital Commons does not affect the copyright of your work, whether it lies with you or the publisher. It simply removes any barriers to access, such as subscriptions, and provides broader access to your work. Your work is still protected under copyright.
Will Publishers Let Me Include My Work in Digital Commons?
Most publishers will allow the author's accepted manuscript to be deposited in an Institutional Repository. The diagram below illustrates the different versions of a publication produced during the publication process.
'Which version to upload' image courtesy of Digital Services, University of Cambridge used under CC BY-SA 4.0.
As the author, you have exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and modification of your original work. When you publish in peer reviewed journals always remember to:
1. Keep your Accepted Author Manuscripts
Many publishers have loosened up and will allow you to distribute and reuse your accepted author manuscript (this is the version after peer review and before any publisher formatting). You may be able to post this version on your own personal website, institutional repository, or other departmental site WITHOUT violating your publisher agreement.
2. Know What You Are Signing
In many cases, the publisher will ask you to sign a copyright transfer agreement before they will publish your work. This copyright transfer agreement will transfer ALL your rights as the original copyright owner to the publisher.
In some cases, you may be signing a license agreement, which will give only some rights (usually reproduction and distribution) to the publisher.
To be sure, READ THE AGREEMENT BEFORE YOU SIGN IT! Know what you can and cannot do with your work once it is published. If you don’t like what the publisher has to say, use an author addendum, to request the rights you do want to retain.
If you’ve already signed an agreement and want to know what your rights are use Sherpa/Romeo at http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/ and search for the journal your work was published in. There you’ll find a quick summary of your rights!