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About Copyrights and Author Rights

If you have published an article in the past, you most likely had to sign a Copyright Form, granting the publisher the rights to your article. Did you know exactly what you signed?

You may have read carefully the Copyright Agreement when you published your last paper. Still, if you publish again soon, be sure to read it again as there have been changes in the Copyright Policies of certain publishers this year.

One particular aspect that is of interest to researchers is the issue of whether the author of a published article may or may not post the final PDF of the article on his/her personal or institutional web pages. Here is what the current Copyright Policies from four main publishers in the computer science areas have to say about the authors rights to post their work on their pages:


From the IEEE Copyright Form:

“Author Online Use: Authors and/or their employers shall have the right to post the accepted version of IEEE-copyrighted articles on their own personal servers or the servers of their institutions or employers without permission from IEEE, provided that the posted version includes a prominently displayed IEEE copyright notice and, when published, a full citation to the original IEEE publication, including a link to the article abstract in IEEE Xplore. Authors shall not post the final, published versions of their papers.”

In a different page (An FAQ on New IEEE Policy Regarding Authors Rights to Post Accepted Versions of Their Papers) the IEEE clarifies what it considers accepted and  final versions of a paper as follows:

“An accepted manuscript is a version which has been revised by the author to incorporate review suggestions, and which has been accepted by IEEE for publication. …..  The final, published version is the reviewed and accepted manuscript, with copy-editing, proofreading and formatting added by IEEE.”

Note that authors are allowed to post the accepted version of their papers on their web sites, but not the final published PDF.


From the ACM Copyright Form:

“Rights Retained by Authors and Original Copyright Holders include: the right to post author-prepared versions of the work covered by ACM copyright in a personal collection on their own Home Page and on a publicly accessible server of their employer, and in a repository legally mandated by the agency funding the research on which the Work is based. Such posting is limited to noncommercial access and personal use by others, and must include this notice both embedded within the full text file and in the accompanying citation display as well:”

“© ACM, YYYY. This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in PUBLICATION, {VOL#, ISS#, (DATE)}”

“Authors may post works on public repositories before acceptance but must incorporate the ACM copyright notice upon transfer of copyright. After acceptance, authors may post the work on public repositories only with the explicit permission of ACM.”

ACM authors are allowed to publicly post pre-published versions provided that they add the ACM notice, and are only allowed to post final, published versions under explicit permission of the ACM.


From the ELSEVIER Copyright Policy:

“Our current policies are that journal article authors are granted or retain, without charge or requesting permission from Elsevier, the right to: Post a pre-print version of the article on Internet web sites including electronic pre-print servers, and to retain indefinitely such version on such servers or sites (with some exceptions such as The Lancet and Cell Press); Post a revised personal version of the final text of the article (to reflect changes made in the peer review process) on their personal or institutional web site or server, with a link (through the DOI) to the article as published, provided that the complete citation for the article is included and such postings are not used for commercial purposes.”

This is similar to the others, except that it explicitly say that you are allowed to incorporate in your own “Personal version” any changes to the text made during the reviewing process. You are still not allowed to post the final published version.


From the SPRINGER Copyright Policy, the Copyright Transfer Statement (for non-Open-Access publishing) says:

“An author may self-archive an author-created version of his/her article on his/her own website and or in his/her institutional repository. He/she may also deposit this version on his/her funder’s or funder’s designated repository at the funder’s request or as a result of a legal obligation, provided it is not made publicly available until 12 months after official publication. He/ she may not use the publisher’s PDF version, which is posted on, for the purpose of self-archiving or deposit.”

“Furthermore, the author may only post his/her version provided acknowledgement is given to the original source of publication and a link is inserted to the published article on Springer’s website. The link must be accompanied by the following text: “The final publication is available at”. Prior versions of the article published on non-commercial pre-print servers like can remain on these servers and/or can be updated with the author’s accepted version. The final published version (in PDF or HTML/XML format) cannot be used for this purpose. Acknowledgement needs to be given to the final publication and a link should be inserted to the published article on Springer’s website, accompanied by the text: “The final publication is available at”.”

In other words, it is business as usual. You are allowed to post your own versions of an accepted article, provided you add a link to the published version. You are not allowed to post the final PDF of the published article.

Since 2004 Springer started offering authors and institutions the choice of publishing their works as OPEN ACCESS, whereby through the payment of an article-processing charge at the beginning of the process, the final article is made freely available.

The Springer Copyright policy has this to say about Open Access articles:

“If you publish your article open access, the final published version can be archived in institutional or funder repositories and can be made publicly accessible immediately.”

From Springer’s page How much is SpringerOpen charging? one can get an idea about the charges:

“SpringerOpen’s article-processing charges (APC) lie between £670/$1065/€800 and £1090/$1730/€1300. They vary from journal to journal.  …Individual waiver requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis and may be granted in cases of lack of funds.”

So Springer Open Access is indeed an option for free access to the published article, provided you or your institution can pay for it or get a waiver.


There are several other Open Access Journals alternatives. For example, Hindawi Journals are all Open Access and their processing fees are usually less than $1000 (USD), with some journals not changing fees at all. There is a lot more to talk about regarding Open Access and we hope to make that the topic of a future blog post.

The fact remains that although Open Access journals are becoming more widespread, the main publishers in the areas of computer science, electronics and engineering still cling to the traditional copyright-based publishing model.

What is in it for you, the researcher?

What are the effects of these different copyright policies and publishing models to the research community?

Is the free access to your published paper important to you? Are you or your institution prepared to pay processing fees to have your paper freely available?

Do you think that having to pay processing fees may, in practice, restrict who gets to publish papers?

Let us know your opinions, write a comment below.

**Disclaimer: this is not a legal opinion, just the view of an author reading those lawyer-prepared Copyright notices.**

Categories: Copyright, PDF Access, Publishing Models. Tags: , , .

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