Skip to Main Content

Open Access

Rights retention

Publish with power: Protect your rights with the Rights Retention Strategy

What is Rights Retention?

Author rights retention is a means for researchers and universities to regain “academic sovereignty over the publishing process.” (European University Association Position paper, 2022). Traditional publishing requires the transferal of the original copyright holders’ rights to a publisher and usually means that the authors’ rights to use the article are severely limited. Rights retention enables authors to retain sufficient rights to their own article manuscript, and to reuse their content as they see fit, such as within teaching and their own academic networks, and the ability to add their papers to their institutional repository. 

How are rights retained?

This is done simply by the author telling the publisher they intend to do this when they submit their article. It HAS to be done at this stage, so that the publisher knows before they accept the article. The author claims their rights by inserting a Rights Retention Statement (RRS) into their article, typically in the Acknowledgements section, and in their letter to the publisher. 

The statement required is:

‘For the purposes of open access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Accepted Author Manuscript version arising from this submission.’

How well do you know your rights as an author? Take the quiz to test your knowledge.

Rights retention development

Rights retention is not new. It was first implemented by Harvard University back in 2008. It gathered pace when a Rights Retention Strategy was championed by cOAlition S as part of the Plan S movement to improve global access to funded research. The Strategy gives researchers supported by a cOAlitionS organisation the freedom to submit manuscripts for publication to their journal of choice, including subscription journals, whilst remaining fully compliant with Plan S aligned policies such as those of UKRI and other funders. 

Rights retention is currently being used by Cranfield authors when publishing their output in journals and conference proceedings via Route 2 (the Green Route to Open Access). This has been necessary since the UKRI introduced their updated Open Access policy from 1 April 2022. 

Benefits of rights retention

  • Compliance with funders’ Open Access (OA) policies.
  • Allows for the reuse of content by the researcher.

This may include:

  • Freedom to distribute copies via research networks of their choosing.
  • Freedom to use the work, including figures and diagrams they created, within any other work of their own or others as they choose.
  • Freedom to use the work for teaching as they choose.
  • Freedom to make derivative works without seeking permission from their publisher.
  • Freedom to distribute copies, including electronic copies, as they choose.

Implementation of funders’ rights retention policies has prompted some academic institutions to take even stronger steps towards supporting their researchers to retain rights by adopting Institutional Rights Retention Policies (IRRPs).

An Institutional Rights Retention Policy (IRRP) for Cranfield

Along with many other UK universities, we have established an institutional rights retention policy (IRRP). This is because Cranfield aspires to share its research with the world in a timely fashion so it can be reused and built upon to solve real-world problems. In addition, Cranfield is a member of the Midlands Innovation Group which has produced a joint statement in support of rights retention. 

This policy helps us meet funder and REF requirements: the forthcoming REF OA regulations are highly likely to match the UKRI OA policy. It will provide a greater freedom to publish irrespective of whether we have a publisher deal to help cover article processing charges.


FAQs on rights retention

Can I make alternative licensing arrangements?
The University recognises that there may be situations where it is difficult to follow this policy exactly. In such cases it will be permissible for researchers to make alternative arrangements, for example - by applying a more restrictive Creative Commons licence, provided that this meets funder requirements for open access. 

What about Corresponding Authors and multi-authored papers?
It is established practice that the Corresponding Author on a paper speaks for all co-authors when engaging with the editors of a chosen journal, to secure acceptance for the publication of their article and signing the publisher’s agreement. The corresponding author at Cranfield takes responsibility for making the publisher and their co-authors at other institutions aware of our Rights Retention policy.

Could the publishers reject my output because I have retained my rights?
UK institutions who have IRRP have reported some instances of articles being rejected, but it is not widespread. In this situation authors have identified an alternative journal for their work. Sheffield Hallam advises their authors that it is extremely unlikely. We cannot be sure about the exact response each publisher will give and any push back an author gets at submission would need to be looked at with the help of the Library Research Support Team on a case-by-case basis. Cambridge University has shared their experiences in a blog post based on their trial, where only two papers were rejected because of RRS. They have noted that in some instances, publishers have requested authors remove statements from a paper because they feel their open access publishing agreement already provides that freedom. They still advise authors to include the statement. However, if you do decide to remove the statement from a manuscript, this does not affect the institution’s right to make it publicly available. 

Want to know more?

A great summary of rights retention: Rights Retention: A Primer – from UKRN

Rumsey, S. (2022) Reviewing the rights retentions strategy - a pathway to wider Open Access? An account of the RRS and how it has been implemented by institutions.


For further help on this topic, please contact your Library Research Support Team.