Do Most Open-Access Journals Require Copyright Transfer?

All rights reserved.

All rights reserved.

Scholarly open-access publishing was designed to be both gratis (free to access online) and libre (free to re-use with proper attribution). However, in my experience, many — if not most — of the publishers and journals on my lists require copyright transfer and include copyright statements on the articles they publish, copyrighted by the publisher or journal. Given the vast number of journals and publishers now on my lists, it may be that a majority of open-access journals require copyright transfer and are not “libre” at all.

I’ve observed that most open-access journals and publishers based in South Asia and West Africa require copyright transfer. Typically, they have a form, in either PDF, HTML, or DOC format, that the author(s) must sign, scan, and return. The copyright transfer statements generally look something like this:

What's yours is ours.

What’s yours is ours.

Here are some example copyright transfer forms from various journals:

Also, most of these for-profit journals that require copyright transfer also charge authors to publish. In the case of for-profit publishers, I don’t think it makes sense for a scholarly author to both transfer copyright and pay to publish.

I’ve seen “copyright transfer” forms that are so poorly written they don’t actually transfer copyright. Here are some examples:

There are also some journals that say that by submitting a paper, the authors automatically transfer copyright. Here are two examples:

First, the International Journal of Advanced and Applied Sciences indicates that copyright is automatically transferred to the journal:

Copyright 3

Automatic copyright transfer.

Perhaps deceptively, the journal displays the CC BY logo on its main page. Its articles bear copyright statements like this:

Copyright 4

Here’s the second example:

Automatic from the people.

Automatic from the people.

DAMA International. They say,

Copyright Policy: Submission of a manuscript implies that the work has not been published before, and that it is not under consideration for publication elsewhere. Acceptance of a manuscript will automatically transfer all copyrights of the manuscript to store, publish, distribute, access, and make commercial use of the article.


Many — perhaps most — scholarly open-access journals require copyright transfer. Some of the copyright transfer forms are so poorly drafted they don’t actually transfer copyright. It makes no sense to pay a for-profit company to publish your article while simultaneously surrendering your copyright to the firm. Some open-access publishers and journals imply a contract that automatically transfers copyright from author to publisher when the author submits a paper for publication. □

10 Responses to Do Most Open-Access Journals Require Copyright Transfer?

  1. publisher says:

    Our journal give copy right to the author.but most often authors will ask us where is the copyright form ? We say the copyright is yours.they where most times not happy with our explanation.

  2. I was once directed to this strange clause in the Frontiers’ Terms &Conditions, point 9; and I still don’t understand why it is there and what Frontiers wants with it. Hope someone can explain:
    “You irrevocably grant us permission to use any non-patented ideas set out in your content or in any message sent or submitted to Frontiers, without any charge and without restriction, for any purpose in any part of the world”.

  3. Ghazal says:

    When a OA publisher collects copyright, it means no other publisher has the right to republish the paper. That is all about this. However, anyone can download the paper, redistribute it under no cost as long as they cite the paper appropriately.

    • David Taylor says:

      I believe that is not accurate. The right to download a paper and redistribute it would have to granted by the copyright holder — it is not an automatic right. In the U.S. we have a policy of fair use, but what you have described goes well beyond fair use. However, it is possible that some of the countries in which these journal operate do not abide by international copyright conventions….

      • Ghazal says:

        I meant when an OA publisher collects copyright, author(s) cannot publish the same version elsewhere. Some OA publishers do not collect copyright and author(s) may publish the work with another possibly more reputable publisher. OA publishers are also interested in protecting the quality of the published work by clarifying that the work was original and would not harm publisher.

      • David Taylor says:

        “Some OA publishers do not collect copyright and author(s) may publish the work with another possibly more reputable publisher.”

        That is not what you wrote — you referred to an OA publisher that “collects” copyright.

        “…authors cannot publish the same version elsewhere…”

        We seem to be on different planets. On my planet you wrote, and I quote, “When a OA publisher collects copyright …anyone can download the paper, redistribute it under no cost so long as they cite the paper appropriately.”

        On your planet you have completely changed the issue. You were not making a claim about authors. You were not making a claim about other versions of an article. You made a claim about “anyone” copying a published article. Your claim was wrong.

  4. Krishnamurthy Bhat says:

    Are those automatic copyright transfer are legally binding on authors? Can anybody please clarify?

  5. […] Entretanto, voltando à questão do mito de que as revistas de “acesso aberto” não demandam a entrega de direitos intelectuais dos autores dos artigos que puiblicam, o professor Jeffrey Beall, responsável entre outras contribuições pela “Beall´s List” de editoras e revistas predatórias, acaba de demonstrar que isto não é verdade. Segundo o que o professor Beall apurou a maioria das revistas de acesso aberto mantidas por editoras predatórias demandam sim que os autores abram mão de seus direitos de propriedade intelectual, em que pese o pagamento de taxas nem sempre módicas para publicar artigos científicos (Aqui!). […]

  6. From Morocco says:

    Predatory publishers use Copyright Transfer for only one purpose: when you send a manuscript to their journals YOU MUST PAY the bill and you can’t publish it elsewhere.
    That is to say, your manuscript is being held hostage!
    Here is an example of an author falling prey to predatory journal:
    How does one escape the clutches of a predatory journal?
    Amanda M. Nelson
    United States Department of Agriculture

    • Ghazal says:

      I can name many OA publishers listed on Beall’s list who collect copyright and do not have APC. Your argument cannot be generalised.

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