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Harvesten der SSOAR-Metadaten über OAI-PMH-Schnittstelle möglich

1. Who "owns" my text? And when am I legally entitled to self-archive a published paper in SSOAR?

At the preprint stage, the author doesn't usually have a publishing agreement (yet). However, some journals/publishers ask for copyright assignment/licensing at the time the manuscript is submitted for consideration and do not permit dissemination of the preprint via the author's own website or other virtual sites. However, even where they hold full copyright or exclusive rights of use in the work, many publishers nowadays allow the preprint, postprint or even the publisher's version to be deposited in non-commercial document servers and made openly accessible to the public free of charge. In some cases such publishers impose an embargo period on self-archiving. (See FAQ IV.2: What does my publisher allow?)

It is important to distinguish between copyright assignment and licensing agreements. Copyright assignment agreements assign full copyright to the publisher. Under licensing agreements, the author retains ownership of the copyright but licenses the publisher to use and disseminate the work. Licensing agreements can be exclusive or non-exclusive. If publishers are granted exclusive rights of use, then they alone have the right to use and disseminate the original text. In other words, an exclusive licensing agreement is more or less as restrictive as a copyright assignment agreement. You should therefore try to persuade your publisher to accept non-exclusive rights of use (see the German Research Foundation (DFG) guidelines). In this way the publisher has the right to use and disseminate the work and, at the same time, you are entitled to post an electronic version of your text on your own website, for example, or to deposit it in a document server such as SSOAR. However, as mentioned above, even where they hold full copyright or exclusive rights of use, many publishers allow self-archiving in an open-access repository. Therefore, even if it is not possible to negotiate non-exclusive rights, you should at least try to ensure that your publishing agreement permits self-archiving.

If you already have an exclusive copyright transfer agreement, you should check whether it allows self-archiving and, if it doesn't, it will be necessary to obtain permission from the publisher to deposit your work in an open-access repository.


2. What does my publisher allow?

Publishers usually claim exclusive rights of use to the author's work and include a clause to this effect in the publishing agreement. If you have such a publishing agreement, you have lost your non-exclusive exploitation rights. (See FAQ IV.4: When entering into publishing agreements, what can I do to retain the right to self-archive my work?

Nonetheless, publishers are increasingly willing to endorse the deposit of journal articles in open-access repositories. The SHERPA/RoMEO-Listings provide information on those publishers which permit self-archiving. The listings refer only to journal publications, not to book publications. They do not constitute legal advice and the respective publishing contract always prevails. Unfortunately, very little information is available about German publishers' policies with regard to self-archiving. Therefore, it is all the more important to consult the publishing agreement and, if necessary, to obtain permission from the publisher to self-archive.

In the SHERPA/RoMEO-Listings, the entry for each publisher is coded according to one of four colour categories, depending on its archiving policy:



Green Publishers
Permit archiving of preprints and postprints.
Blue Publishers
Permit archiving of postprints (i.e final draft post-refereeing).
Yellow Publishers
Permit archiving of preprints (i.e. pre-refereeing drafts).
White Publishers
Do not officially permit archiving.

In recent years, some publishers have begun to allow immediate self-archiving subject to certain conditions and/or restrictions. Authors whose publishing agreements or the addenda thereto include such provisions should make sure to mention them when submitting a document to SSOAR. Such publishers often require that an acknowledgement be added when the document is self-archived.


3. What legal provisions must I observe if I want to self-archive a published monograph?

In Germany, there are no explicit statutory provisions governing the online dissemination of monographs published before 1995. Under German law, monographs published before 1995 may be archived without any restriction. Because electronic distribution was unknown at the time, authors could not assign rights to exploit their work in this way. Thus, the electronic distribution rights are held by the author unless an agreement on digital distribution was made retrospectively. In the case of monographs published after 31.12.1994, it is advisable to enquire with the publisher whether self-archiving is permitted. (See FAQ IV.1: Who "owns" my text? And when am I legally entitled to self-archive a published paper in SSOAR? and IV.2: What does my publisher allow?)


4. When entering into publishing agreements, what can I do to retain the right to self-archive my work?

If you wish to publish your article in a subscription-based journal while at the same time reserving the right to deposit it in an open-access repository such as SSOAR, and if the publishing agreement does not permit self-archiving in an open-access repository, you could consider crossing out the restrictive terms before you sign the contract. Alternatively, you can safeguard your rights by attaching an addendum to the publishing agreement.

Crossing out words in the publishing agreement

Many authors modify publishing agreements which restrict their rights to self-archive their publication by crossing out restrictive wording such as "exclusive" transfer of "all" rights. The publisher's attention should be drawn to such changes in a covering letter.   


As an alternative to crossing out restrictive wording, authors can attach an addendum to the publishing agreement. In order to become legally binding, this addendum must be countersigned by the publisher. The most well-known and probably the most well-accepted version is the  SPARC Author's Addendum. It consists of two parts, the actual addendum and instructions for use.

Example of supplementary clause 

"1. The publisher consents to the retention by the author of the non-exclusive right to deposit a digital copy of the document prior/during/after publication by the publishers for an unlimited period of time in a non-commercial, academic server.

 2. The author undertakes to cite the original document in the non-commercial academic server."


5. Can I self-archive a document in SSOAR as the sole means of making my work available to the public?

Although SSOAR's principal target is the (self-)archiving of published documents, it is also possible to deposit texts/documents in SSOAR as the sole means of making them available to the public. Since published documents are quality assured, exclusive dissemination in SSOAR calls for prior quality control (either peer review or a recommendation from two peers.) (See FAQ II.2: When is a text a postprint? When is it a preprint? And what is the relationship between the postprint and the publisher's version?


6. What legal provisions must I observe when using SSOAR to make my work publicly available for the first time?

Many documents, for example dissertations, are deposited in digital repositories as the sole means of making them available to the public. The main legal provisions to be observed here are the doctorate regulations of the  university in question.

If you are planning to self-archive your work in parallel with print publication, you should make sure that this is stated in the publishing agreement. Many publishers, for example university presses, already offer this so-called hybrid publishing model. Therefore you should discuss with the prospective publisher of the print version your wish to make your work open access in parallel with the print publication. In fact, some publishers are quite accommodating in this regard because parallel open-access dissemination often stimulates demand for the print version.

It is essential that the document be deposited in SSOAR under an open-content licence. (See FAQ V.2: What licences are used in SSOAR?)


7. Can documents be copied and plagiarised by others?

Because documents stored in SSOAR can be downloaded, they can, in principle, also be re-used. This is in line with the German Research Foundation's Guidelines for the use of information for scholarly purposes in accordance with good scientific practice which also regulates the question of correct citation. The risk of plagiarism is no greater in the case of an electronic publication than in conventional publications. However, plagiarised passages are easier to detect in electronic documents which in itself acts as a deterrent.

By using a so-called copyleft licence, you, as the author, can stipulate the exact terms under which you permit re-use of your work. (See FAQV.1: Why do I grant a licence when I deposit a document in SSOAR?)