The term "authors' rights" refers to the intellectual property rights that authors, and other creators, have to the materials they produce. In most cases, the rights in question are those governed by copyright law. While authors initially have full copyright to their work, many publishers will ask authors to transfer their copyrights prior to publishing. Depending on the specifics of the publication agreement, this can result in an author losing the right to use, reuse, and share their work. It can also result in the work becoming inaccessible to readers who do not have access to the journal in which it is published.
Authors' Rights are important because they allow authors to take a proactive approach to sharing and promoting their work, which makes the work more accessible and discoverable to researchers and other readers. The more people that read your work, the more likely your work is to be cited. Citations and other metrics allow you to demonstrate that you are making an impact in your field, which is often necessary to secure a job, attain tenure, earn a promotion, or otherwise advance in your career.
The WVU Libraries provide expertise and consultations in all areas related to authors' rights to help WVU researchers understand and exercise their rights throughout the research and publication process.
People don't have trouble finding research. They have trouble finding your research. In light of this fact, it's important for you to do everything you can to make it easier for people to find your work. One of the most effective things you can do to increase the visibility of your work is to make it accessible to as wide of an audience as possible.
Because decisions concerning the distribution and access of a work belong to the work's copyright holder, retaining and exercising your authors' rights will empower you to have a say over how your work can be shared, who may access it, and under what conditions it can be reused.