Skip to Main Content


Copyright Transfer Agreements

Authors of academic articles originally own the copyright to their work. When their article is published in a subscription journal, they usually sign a copyright transfer agreement, which transfers most of their rights to the publisher. This may prevent the author:

  • from making the file openly accessible in a non-profit repository such as the Geneva Graduate Institute Repository, thereby hindering the dissemination of the article and making it difficult to comply with the open access mandate of their funder;
  • from making derivative works (such as a translation);
  • from incorporating parts of this work in future works;
  • or even from using it for teaching.

For example, PhD students who publish journal articles that they later wish to include in their dissertation may have lost the copyright to these articles and may not have the right to use them in their dissertation without the permission of the publisher. 

In some European countries, such as France or Germany, there is a secondary publication right which allows researchers to make the full text of their article openly accessible in a non-profit repository after an embargo period if their research has been funded by public money. There is no such right in the Swiss copyright law, which makes it particularly necessary for authors to retain some of their rights if they want to be able to self-archive.

Rights Retention

It is strongly recommended that you read the agreement before you sign it and to think about the rights you want to retain. To make things easier, you can use an author's addendum such as the SPARC addendum. For example, it may allow you to change the embargo period to suit your funder's requirements.

Researchers with a Swiss National Science Foundation grant (awarded after January 1st, 2023) must reserve the right to make their AAM freely available under a CC BY licence without embargo upon submission of the manuscript,  in accordance with the Plan S Rights Retention Strategy. Plan S provides authors with template letters to use when submitting an article (user guide for these templates). They have also developed a Journal Checker Tool to help you determine how Plan S compliant a journal is.

If you have not retained certain rights that you need (for example, if you want  to  publish a translation of your article in another language), you will need to ask your publisher for permission.