Legal Aspects


Usually, copyright owners assign parts of their rights to a publisher. Authors can choose between the assignment of exclusive and non-exclusive rights of use.

Exclusive vs. non-exclusive usage rights

Exclusive usage rights mean that all rights are assigned to the publisher. Authors may then only publish their publications elsewhere if the publishing agreement grants explicit permission to do so. If the publisher has been granted non-exclusive usage rights, the authors themselves can control further use of their works. This allows authors to make a parallel publication freely available on a university server or repository (e.g. PubData) without obtaining permission from the publisher.

Publishing agreements

The publishing agreement determines whether and under what conditions publications may be secondary published. Therefore, it is essential to check the details of the contract carefully. If a parallel publication is permitted, it is important to know which version of the first publication (preprint, postprint, publisher's version) may be made available at which time (embargo period) and where (e.g. institutional repository, author's website).
SHERPA/RoMEO contains self-archiving policies of publishers and journals. Thus, you can use the database to check the conditions under which a parallel publication might be allowed.

To avoid complications later on, authors should - if possible - only grant publishers non-exclusive rights of use or at least obtain permission for a parallel publication by means of contract addenda. This is particularly recommended for cumulative dissertations. The Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine can be used to automatically generate such contract addendums.

Second publication right

According to §38 (4) of the German Copyright Act (UrhG) authors have the right to make their scientific contributions publicly accessible in the accepted manuscript version twelve months after the first publication. This right allows parallel publications under the following conditions:

  • The scientific contribution results from a research activity that was at least half financed by public funds.
  • The scientific article has been published in a collection that appears periodically at least twice a year.
  • The publication does not serve a commercial purpose.
  • The source of the first publication is indicated.

The right applies to publications as of 01.01.2014 and shall also apply if the Publisher has been granted an exclusive right of use.

Creative Commons Licenses

The non-profit organisation Creative Commons provides six different licenses that creators can select to allow other people to use their works in specific ways without their permission. Depending on the license module, the content may be shared, edited, modified or used for commercial purposes by others. All of the licenses require that those using the content give appropriate credit to the creator, provide a link to the license and indicate if changes were made. A prerequisite for applying a Creative Commons license is that the authors hold all rights to their work. For this reason too, publishers should – wherever possible – only be granted non-exclusive rights of use.  

We recommend the CC BY 4.0 license, as this is open access-compliant in the sense of the "Berlin Declaration". It allows others to copy redistribute, remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially. Therefore, this license ensures maximum dissemination and reuse.



Gesa Baron
Universitätsallee 1, CB.107
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.677-1183

Martin Bilz
Universitätsallee 1, CB.105
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.677-1113