Dealing with copyright issues when posting our papers on a public server

As early careers, we are usually most eager to upload our papers on a public server (i.e. Research Gate, Academia…) to get the maximum exposure. However it is not always clear when and under which conditions our articles can be shared with the wider scientific community. I found this very useful piece of information on setting the record straight about a few misconceptions, a link to a page in which you can find out the rules for a specific Journal, and a couple of good tips. I hope it is useful!

  • Sending a single copy of one’s article to a colleague who asks for it, by email for instance, is generally legal, not because it falls under the fair use exceptions in copyright laws. But uploading it on a server from where anybody could download it freely requires the authorization of the publisher.
  • Copyright in journal articles doesn’t “expire” after a few years; in fact, it expires, and the article falls into the public domain, between 50 and 70 years after the death of the last surviving author.
  • What we usually refer to rather than copyright are embargo periods after which a journal allows the authors to self-archive their article. These periods are generally 6-12 months for most journals, but generally only allow the revised manuscript to be published, not the PDF formatted by the journal! An in any event, the author can’t then put a Creative Commons licence on the article because of the copyright agreement with the publisher the author signed upon acceptance.
  • It is he authors’ responsibility to check the copyright of what is uploaded, as you are doing the uploading, and not the servers providing the framework and tools. It is always good advice to be clear of your copyright position before you up load the full text A useful link to search of specific publishers copyright policies and self-archiving can be found at
  • Some publishers, however, make subtle (and often fuzzy) distinctions between various types of servers, for instance limiting the authorization to institutional repositories, or personal web sites. As a result, in specific cases it may be difficult to know for sure if uploading a paper in one’s Research Gate (for example) profile is permitted or not.
  • The best advice in case you decide to upload your article and a publisher ever sends a take-down notice, claim that it was done in good faith, and prove it by removing the article at once!

Source: [accessed Feb 17, 2016].


Roser \\ Melbourne

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