If you are publishing your work, you will likely encounter some type of contract drafted by the publisher. The terms of these contracts can drastically alter the rights you have to the scholarship you create.
You can remain the rights holder, and still grant the publisher specific rights, either exclusively or non-exclusively, forever or for a set period of time. For example, you can grant an exclusive right of first publication, but retain any rights to create derivative works. To make this process easier for authors, there are various examples of publication agreement addenda (SPARC Author Addendum, the Scholars Copyright Addendum Engine) which can be used to modify and supplement the terms of your publication agreement. In addition to these tools, the Authors Alliance provides an excellent overview of monograph or long-form publication contracts that is more focused on book and monograph publishing.
Authors of scholarly works at the University of Notre Dame are encouraged to retain the right to self-archive copies of their work through CurateND, our institutional repository, or through a disciplinary archive such as arXiv. The version of your work may be a factor in these negotiations, and SHERPA/RoMEO can help you figure out what a particular journal or publisher’s policy is. (Note that you can negotiate your own individual agreement regardless of the policies listed.)
For more information, and to review examples of publisher agreements, visit “How to Review a Publication Agreement,” provided by the Copyright Services department at The Ohio State University, or check out “Copyright Management for Authors” provided by Cornell University.
You may be able to work with the publisher to modify a past publication agreement to allow you to reclaim specific rights, or to request that the rights revert back to you in certain circumstances. Much of this will depend on what is included in your original publication agreement.