Publishing your own work

Who owns the copyright in a (scientific) publication?
Publication with full copyright protection
Publication with partial copyright retention
Publication with full assignment of copyright
Copyright in books of universities of applied sciences or research universities
Citations and source referencing

If you want to publish a (scientific) article, doctoral thesis or book, this page explains the copyright of your own work. We will also discuss the option of transferring your copyright when publishing your work.

Who owns the copyright of a (scientific) publication?

According to the Dutch Copyright Act, the creator of a work automatically owns the copyright of that work. There is one important exception to this rule, and that is if you are employed while making the work. Article 7 of the Dutch Copyright Act (on employer copyright) states that if the work done in the service of another party, the party in whose service the work was produced shall be regarded as the creator of the work, unless otherwise agreed between the parties.

Dutch law and the collective labour agreement state that universities of applied sciences and research universities generally own the copyright in their employees' work and creations. In practice, however, the employee is often regarded as the rightful rightsholder. It is possible to make mutual arrangements, preferably in writing, with your own institution on the copyright of your (research) publications.

Copyright in a publication with several authors

In case of scientific publications with several authors, the copyright is usually shared. Anything you do with the publication requires the permission of the authors. However, you don't need to take your co-authors into account if your own work is part of one collective work in which the works belong together. These works have to be adapted to each other and it must be possible to separate them. Different articles in a handbook are an example of this. What matters is that the individual contributions of the various authors can still be distinguished.

Publication with full copyright protection

Publish the work yourself

If you want to keep the copyright of your own publications, check if you can publish the work yourself. Find out about the possibilities at your own institution Copyright Information Point.

Open Access

Another option is to publish your work with Open Access. Open Access means that the material can be accessed and used freely. However, (re)use is subject to 2 important conditions: accurate source referencing and respect for the author’s moral rights. A common way to publish material with Open Access is to use a Creative Commons licence.

Creative Commons licence

A CC licence allows you to give others the opportunity to use your publication in a way you choose. You retain all your rights, but you allow others to distribute, share or – under some CC licences – even modify your work.

Publication with partial copyright retention

If publication with full copyright retention is not possible, try to retain some of your copyrights. You negotiate this with the publisher and use an addendum or licence.

An addendum is an annex to a contract. Some institutions have their own addendum to include in the contract of a publication. Ask your own Copyright Information Point about this.

A licence is a formal permission to do something. There are 2 types of licences that you can grant the publisher:

  • An exclusive licence (user rights) for (part of) the material. You don't assign the copyright. The publisher may only use the material as agreed . Because the licence is exclusive, you can no longer grant user rights to others.
  • A non-exclusive licence. In that case, you don't assign the copyright either. The publisher may only use your resources in the way that is described in the agreement. Because the licence is non-exclusive, you can also grant these user rights to others.

Publication with full transfer of copyright

Sometimes you can't avoid having your work published by a publisher who requests the transfer of (part of) your copyrights. This gives the publisher the right to exploit your work, i.e. to publicly disclose and distribute it (reproduce it). The transfer of copyright must always be in writing. Publishers tend to use a standard contract for this purpose. Usually, this contract also states what you are still allowed to do with your own publication. For example: include or not include on your own website or institutional repository, use for teaching purposes, or modify to make a new publication of it.

Source referencing: this image is based on the first 3 columns of the diagram of Radbout University in Nijmegen: Own publications – University library ( What can I do with my publication?

If you have retained the copyright yourself, for example by publishing the work with Open Access, you can decide for yourself what you do with your work. You can distribute it without any restrictions, for example on your own website or in a repository and you can use it for teaching purposes.

You share, we take care

Both houses of the Dutch parliament adopted the Taverne amendment in 2015. The amendment was included as Article 25fa of the Dutch Copyright Act: an author of a short scientific work can make this work publicly available after a reasonable period of time, provided that the work is based research that was at least partly financed with government funds.

Every author of a scientific work has this right, so you don't need to be a corresponding author or first author to use it. The work can be made available in an institutional repository or on a personal website, for example.

In 2019, the association of government-funded research universities Vereniging van Universiteiten (UNL) launched the national project 'You share, we take care'. The alliance of higher education institutions Nationaal Programma Open Science developed an amendment of practical principles for this project. These practical principles mean that the final published version of an article, a conference contribution or book chapter in a collection can be made freely available to the public 6 months after the first online publication, irrespective of any restrictive guidelines of publishers. The university medical centres (UMCs) of the Netherlands have now also joined this national project.

Some research universities are taking steps to ensure scientific works are disclosed by default under Article 25fa of the Dutch Copyright Act (opt-out policy).

You can do more with the preprint and postprint versions of your article. You usually retain the copyright of these versions yourself. The Sherpa Romeo website has information about the terms and conditions of publishers and the rights authors have, to make an article freely accessible on their own website or to include it in a repository.

Copyright in books of universities of applied sciences or research universities

In principle, the university of applied sciences or research university owns the copyright in publications of lecturers and researchers. In practice, this is a more complex issue, particularly because institutions rarely publish works themselves. Books are usually published by a commercial publisher. It is important to make proper arrangements with all parties in advance. Be sure to document these arrangements the right way.

Citations and source referencing

When you are writing a scientific publication, you will inevitably build on the work of others. It is important to comply with copyright regulations. You can use someone else’s material without permission, provided that you include a citation.

The following conditions apply:

  • By law, citations have to serve at least one of the following purposes: an announcement, assessment, polemic or scientific dissertation.
  • Citations have to be proportionate: you mustn't cite more than what is necessary.
  • Citations must mention the source (including the creator's name).
  • Citations must come from works that have been lawfully disclosed.