Virginia Tech's open access policy enables authors to legally provide open access to the accepted version (not the journal's published version) of their scholarly article, regardless of what your copyright transfer agreement says (a very small number of publishers may require you to waive the policy). The policy follows copyright law and has been vetted by Virginia Tech's Office of Legal Counsel. More than 50 U.S. universities already have a similar policy in place.
The open access policy text was added to Virginia Tech's Policy on Intellectual Property, No. 13000 (PDF), following approval by the Board of Visitors on March 22, 2021, and can be found at the bottom of page 4 of the document.
8. For Scholarly Articles: Authors grant to the university a nonexclusive license to copyright in their scholarly articles in order to provide open access (free, public, online access) to them via the university repository. However, anything deposited in the university repository is subject to the provisions of all the numbered paragraphs above. An author may waive the license for a particular article or delay access for a specified period of time. The university may not sell the articles. Authors deposit in the university repository an electronic copy of their unformatted, post peer-review, accepted manuscript for each scholarly article within one month after the date of its publication. Upon deposit of accepted manuscripts into the university repository, the university grants authors a nonexclusive license to share accepted manuscripts elsewhere.
grant: The policy causes the grant of the nonexclusive license directly. Alternative wordings such as “shall grant” or "encouraged to grant" are not recommended since they do not actually cause the grant itself.
nonexclusive: Authors retain copyright (in accordance with existing language in Policy 13000) and grant nonexclusive rights to the university. The nonexclusive rights are granted prior to, and survive, any subsequent grant or transfer of rights by the author.
to copyright: added to clarify that the grant of license only applies to copyright, not patents or other types of intellectual property.
scholarly articles: articles that describe the fruits of research and that we give to the world for the sake of inquiry and knowledge without expectation of payment. Such articles are typically presented in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and conference proceedings. Outside of the scope of the policy are a wide variety of other scholarly writings such as books and commissioned articles, as well as popular writings, fiction and poetry, and pedagogical materials (lecture notes, lecture videos, case studies). If an author feels that a particular article inappropriately falls within the policy scope, a waiver can always be obtained.
While "scholarly articles" may seem vague, the use of more precise language (such as “articles published in peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings”) may have the unintended consequence that the article is not covered by the policy until it is published, by which time a publication agreement is likely to already have been signed. Thus the benefit of the policy’s nonexclusive license preceding a later transfer of rights may be eliminated.
However, anything deposited... : This sentence is added to clarify that the policy does not apply to exceptions mentioned elsewhere in Policy 13000, such as proprietary or defense-related research.
may waive: The waiver is at the sole discretion of the author.
delay access: An author may choose to observe a journal embargo on article access, or to delay access for any reason. Authors are under no obligation to observe journal embargoes due to the prior nonexclusive license.
unformatted, post-peer review, accepted manuscript: The author’s accepted manuscript—the version after the article has gone through peer review and the revisions responsive thereto and any further copyediting in which the author has participated—is the appropriate version to deposit. This version is sometimes called a post-print. However, note that the published version can be deposited if 1) it is published open access with a Creative Commons license; 2) one or more co-authors is a U.S. government employee and therefore the work is in the public domain; or 3) the publisher allows/prefers posting of the published PDF.
within one month of the date of its publication: Article availability is not intended to preempt journal publication but to supplement it. This also makes the policy consistent with journals that will not publish articles that have appeared elsewhere (known as the Ingelfinger rule). Additionally, deposit after publication means that Elements will already contain article information, and authors will not need to manually enter it.
Upon deposit ... : The university shares the non-exclusive license with authors. This enables authors to legally host accepted manuscripts on their personal webpages, disciplinary repositories, etc., if desired.