Secondary Publication Right

The University Library does not offer legal consultation on open access and copyright issues, but merely provides nonbinding information and assistance in understanding the legal aspects of open access. The information is supplied without liability.

The secondary publication right (or: right of secondary publication; German: Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht) refers to a provision in the German Copyright Act (§ 38 section 4, effective since 1 January 2014), according to which authors of scientific contributions have the irrevocable right to make these contributions publicly accessible in a manuscript version twelve months after the initial publication, though only under certain conditions.

Section 38 of the German Copyright Act (Urheberrechtsgesetz) states under paragraph 4:

„Der Urheber eines wissenschaftlichen Beitrags, der im Rahmen einer mindestens zur Hälfte mit öffentlichen Mitteln geförderten Forschungstätigkeit entstanden und in einer periodisch mindestens zweimal jährlich erscheinenden Sammlung erschienen ist, hat auch dann, wenn er dem Verleger oder Herausgeber ein ausschließliches Nutzungsrecht eingeräumt hat, das Recht, den Beitrag nach Ablauf von zwölf Monaten seit der Erstveröffentlichung in der akzeptierten Manuskriptversion öffentlich zugänglich zu machen, soweit dies keinem gewerblichen Zweck dient. Die Quelle der Erstveröffentlichung ist anzugeben. Eine zum Nachteil des Urhebers abweichende Vereinbarung ist unwirksam.“

Unofficial translation:
The author of a scientific contribution which has been produced in the context of a research activity that is at least 50% publicly funded and which has been published in a collection that appears periodically at least twice a year shall, even if he/she has granted the publisher or editor an exclusive right of use, have the right to make the contribution available to the public in the accepted manuscript version twelve months after the initial publication, provided that this does not serve any commercial purpose. The source of the initial publication is to be acknowledged. Any agreement contrary to this and to the detriment of the author is invalid.

The conditions thus are:

  • Making the contribution publicly available does not serve a commercial purpose.
  • The contribution has been produced in the context of a research activity that is at least 50% publicly funded.
  • The contribution has been published in a collection that appears periodically at least twice a year. (Therefore, monographs are excluded.)

The following requirements must then be complied with when making the work publicly available:

  • The contribution may be made publicly available at the earliest twelve months after the initial publication has been published. (However, preparations for this may be made prior.)
  • Only the accepted manuscript (the so-called postprint, see our glossary) of the contribution can be made available.
  • The source, i.e. the publication details of the initial publication, must be given.

The crucial point is that this right also applies insofar as an exclusive right of use has been granted with the initial publication (which would normally prohibit making the work publicly available), making such an exclusive right of use legally invalid in this case. Likewise, all other agreements that exclude this right are invalid.

It must be noted, however, that legal ambiguities exist with regard to the second publication right, among other things regarding the exact meaning and interpretation of the terms used in the legal text. Explanations on several legal questions are compiled in a FAQ on the secondary publication right (up to date as of March 2015, available in German only), which was assembled by a task force of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany.

Exercising the secondary publication right

If the above conditions apply to any publication you have published, you may make them publicly available subject to the respective conditions. Members of Humboldt-Universität can use the university's repository (edoc-Server) for depositing such publications.

You are welcome to contact the Open Access Team for assistance and further information. (However, we cannot offer legal advice).