BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online


    BIROn was developed as an institutional repository within the SHERPA Project to house the research carried out at Birkbeck College. The aim of the repository is to make research freely available. One of the major concerns associated with making material available in institutional repositories is copyright. This guide is intended to provide information about some of the most frequently asked questions relating to repositories and intellectual property rights, and to give details of additional sources of information. It is not intended to be used as a source of legal advice.

    Journal publishers and copyright

    Journal publishers usually require authors to sign some sort of copyright transfer or license to publish agreement prior to the publication of articles. Each publisher has their own agreement, and so the rights that you retain will vary. Some of the rights that you may be required to sign over to the publisher are:

    • The right to reuse an article as a chapter in a book
    • The right to revise or adapt an article
    • The right to distribute an article to colleagues
    • The right to reproduce copies of an article for teaching purposes
    • The right to self archive/make available an article in an online repository

    If a publisher does not permit you to retain these rights then as an author you may not do any of these things automatically. However, you may be able to seek permission from the publisher.

    Some publishers (particularly "open access" publishers) do not require authors to sign a copyright assignment form. Instead they ask authors to sign a non-exclusive license to publish and allow authors to retain copyright.

    How do I find out if I am permitted to deposit my paper in an institutional or subject repository?

    Check if you have a copy of the agreement you signed. This may indicate whether or not you are permitted to make your paper available in a repository. However, some agreements do not explicitly cover this issue. Also, if the agreement appears to forbid deposit in a repository bear in mind that some publishers do change their agreement and apply this retrospectively.

    If you do not have a copy of the agreement:

    • Establish who is the publisher of your paper.
    • Check the SHERPA/RoMEO Publisher Policies list (Please note: this list is not comprehensive)
    • If the publisher is not listed you may be able to find details of the copyright agreement you signed on the publishers web site (often within the section on "Guidelines/instructions for authors/contributors").
    • Talk to the BIROn staff, who can contact the publisher on your behalf
    • Alternatively, contact the publisher directly and ask them.

    It may not be immediately obvious from a copyright agreement, or from information on a publisher's web site whether authors are permitted to deposit their article in repositories or not. These are some points to look out for.

    • Pre-prints: Many publishers permit authors to make the "pre-print" version of the article available in repositories. By this they mean the version you originally submitted, prior to any referees' amendments.
    • Post-prints: Some publishers permit authors to make the "post-print" version of the article available in repositories. By this they mean the final printed version, including referees' amendments, but without the publisher's formatting. This term is confusing so we now usually refer to the post-print as the Author's Accepted Manuscript, or AAM.
    • Publisher PDFs: Many publishers allow the text of article as published (see above) to be included in institutional repositories, but not in the formatted PDF file that appears in the journal. A scant few prefer the final PDF version to be used, as this is a clear indication that an article in a repository is the bona fide version.
    • Personal or departmental web sites: Many publishers permit authors to make their articles available on a personal web site or on a departmental site. By permitting this they are making a clear distinction between this type of web page and institutional repositories. The fact that the full text of the article can easily be found using search engines, regardless of whether it is available in the BIROn Service or on a personal web site within the domain, is immaterial.

    To maximise the possibilities of adding your work to the repository, you should:

    • Retain the copyright if at all possible. Publishers are beginning to accept a non-exclusive licence to publish as an alternative: ask about this whenever a paper is accepted.
    • Keep copies of your papers in as many formats and versions as practicable. If you attach more than one version of your paper to a single deposit, repository staff can sort out which one(s) should be kept.

    What should I do if I have included pictures, diagrams or anything else in my paper that is copyright to a third party?

    You should have applied for permission from the copyright holder to include any copyright material in your paper before it was published. Check the permission that you received to see whether it covers further distribution of your paper on an open access website. If it doesn't, the repository staff will try to obtain further permission for you. It would help if you could let the repository staff have a copy of the permission so that they know who to contact. It would also be useful if you alert the repository staff (in the "Comments" section of the deposit form) that copyright material is included.

    Find out more


    Please note: this document can only provide guidelines and should not be relied on for legal advice.


    For further information please contact Paul Rigg ext. 6240.