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Ask A Librarian

Open Access

This guide provides an overview of Open Access and related issues.

What rights do I have to my published works?

The rights you retain for each article you publish vary by journal. When you sign the author agreement to publish, read it carefully, because this is where you make the decision about what rights to grant to the publisher. The following excerpt from the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) helps you know your rights:


  • The author is the copyright holder.
    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.
  • Assigning your rights matters.
    Normally, the copyright holder possesses the exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and modification of the original work. An author who has transferred copyright without retaining these rights must ask permission unless the use is one of the statutory exemptions in copyright law.
  • The copyright holder controls the work.
    Decisions concerning use of the work, such as distribution, access, pricing, updates, and any use restrictions belong to the copyright holder. Authors who have transferred their 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 a public online archive, or reuse portions in a subsequent work. That’s why it is important to retain the rights you need.
  • Transferring copyright doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
    The law allows you to transfer copyright while holding back rights for yourself and others. This is the compromise that the SPARC Author Addendum helps you to achieve.

Learn more about your rights from SPARC.

Are there different kinds of Open Access?

There are three different types of Open Access:

  1. Open Access self-archiving -- authors publish in a subscription journal, but also make their articles freely accessible online, either by placing them in an institutional repository or in a central repository such as PubMed Central.
  2. Open Access publishing -- authors publish in open access journals that make their articles freely accessible online immediately upon publication. Open access journals conduct peer review and allow authors to retain their copyright. These journals sometimes meet their expenses by charging the author a publication fee. Examples of OA publishers are BioMed Central and Public Library of Science (PLoS). There are currently more than 3,200 OA publications listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
  3. Hybrid Open Access -- Some traditional, subscription-based publishers have introduced a "hybrid open access" concept. In this model, the publisher will make an article immediately available to the public if the author pays an additional open-access fee. Frequently referred to as an "open choice" or "paid access" charge, these fees can range from $500-$3,100 per article. Publishers participating in this model include Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley.

Myths & Facts

This information is summarized from a Boston College Libraries Newsletter (Spring 2011) article.

Myth:  Open Access is a subversive movement that will ultimately undermine our copyright system.

Fact: Open Access works entirely within our current copyright system. Your work as an author is copyrighted to you the moment you fix it in a tangible medium of expression (typing it into Word and clicking Save, for example). You retain that copyright until you give some or all of it away.

Myth: Open Access will destroy the scholarly publishing system and cause journals to fail.

Fact: New models are emerging in scholarly publishing. One safeguard that many journals implement is a time-limited embargo on open access. Journals recoup most of the publishing costs within the first year of publication. Articles can then be made open access without loss of revenue.
Many journal publishers (Oxford, Cambridge, Wiley, Sage, etc.) have also decided to change their business model from subscription-only, cost-recovery, to a hybrid model, in which open accesss articles are published alonside traditional ones. Article processing fees are charged to recoup the publishers' costs. Hybrid journal policies should be examined carefully, however; some allow free access to the article but do not allow any of the derivative uses associated with true open access. See "When is Open Access Not Open Access?"

Myth: Open Access journals are not peer-reviewed and are of low quality.

Fact: Open Access journals, just like any other journal, can be peer-reviewed or not, depending on the journal policy. The fact that the journal is open access says nothing about whether it is peer-reviewed. Most scholarly open access journals are peer-reviewed.

Myth: If I want to publish open access I have to submit my article to an open access journal.

Fact: You can submit and publish your article in any journal you like and still make it available open access in our research repository, WVUScholar, provided the author agreement you signed with the publisher allows this. You just need to plan for this in advance. You can send the article to WVUScholar at the same time that you submit it to the journal of your choice, giving WVU the right to make it available (subject to an embargo period if you like). If the journal you're publishing with doesn't include the right to deposit to your University's repository in their standard author agreement, consult our OA FAQs page for instructions on how to modify the argreement.

Myth: If I try to retain some rights, publishers will think I am difficult and will not want to publish my work.

Fact: Publishers are very used to dealing with these requests at this point. Far from being unusual, the retention of rights by authors is becoming a mainstream choice.  Approximately 60% of academic journals allow some form or open access archiving without any use of an addendum to the contract.  For a searchable database of publisher policies about copyright and archiving, explore the SHERPA/RoMEO site.

Myth:  Publishing my work open access is a nice, altruistic thing to do, but there is nothing in it for me.

Fact: Open access publishing does help address inequities in access to knowledge globally. Few people in the world have access to the resources we have here at WVU. But, in addition, most studies show a clear citation advantage for open access publications. Open access publications are cited more often than those that are subscription-only and citation counts are still important factors in tenure and promotion decisions.

Open Access Resources