Copyright ownership and assignment can be a complex topic.
Copyright registrations and renewal registrations are published by the Copyright Office in its Catalog of Copyright Entries, and many volumes with copyright notices from 1950 onward can be found in the Catalog of Copyright Entries - which been digitized and can be accessed through the Internet Archive.
The period from 1923-1963 is of special interest for US copyrights, as works published after January 1, 1964 had their copyrights automatically renewed by statute, and works published before 1923 have generally fallen into the public domain. Stanford's Copyright Renewal Database is a searchable index of the copyright renewal records for books published in the US between 1923 and 1963 (renewals from 1951–1977).
Journal publishers differ on whether they require an author to provide first publication rights, allow for the author to maintain Creative Commons rights, require the assignment of all rights to the publisher, or some other combination.
Below are a few examples of slightly modified copyright agreements that might be worth considering:
The Copyright Alliance is the unified voice of the copyright community, representing the interests of thousands of individuals and organizations across the spectrum of copyright disciplines.
SHERPA Juliet is a searchable database and single focal point of up-to-date information concerning funders' policies and their requirements on open access.
NIH Public Access Policy
Retaining Your Rights: Researchers submitting articles for publication after April 7, 2008 will need to insure that the terms of the publication agreement allow for the submission of the work to PubMed Central.
Here are some general background explanations on why you need to do this.
1. Check Publisher's Policy
Before trying to re-write or amend your contract, you should check your publisher's policies towards NIH deposit at the Sherpa-Romeo Publisher copyright policies & self-archiving site.
For example, looking at the entry for Cell -Cambridge Ma- (ISSN: 0092-8674), Elsevier allows for archiving with NIH. The Sherpa Romeo site also provides a link to Elsevier's policy on NIH archiving.
2. Amend your Publication Contract
If it is clear that your publisher does not routinely permit submission of your article to PubMed Central, some specific language to alter your contract can be found at: Scholar's Copyright Addendum from Science Commons.
Duke University offers an alternative strategy where the author sends a submission letter to the publisher explaining that the article was written based on research fully or partially funded by NIH and therefore subject to the mandate. It offers the publisher three options on how they can handle the issue.
The third option is for the author to include the following language: "The Journal acknowledges that Author retains the right to provide a copy of the final manuscript to the NIH upon acceptance for Journal publication, for public archiving in PubMed Central as soon as possible but no later than 12 months after publication by Journal."
As of March 2016, AIP Publishing will no longer require authors to transfer their copyright but will instead have in place a License to Publish Agreement. Characterized by its fair and rational approach, this exclusive license enables authors to retain their copyright and encourages them to post and share their accepted manuscript immediately on acceptance. At the same time it grants AIP Publishing the rights it needs to publish their work. This enhanced agreement helps simplify the publication process and clarifies the many rights researchers enjoy when choosing to publish with AIP Publishing.
Authors Alliance -- non-profit organization that advances the interests of authors who want to serve the public good by sharing their creations broadly.
For additional information about copyright, see our two Copyright Law and Fair Use Guidelines and Copyight Policy Information for SXU Faculty and Students pages.