This is a follow-up on these two questions: When can I safely use CC-BY license on arXiv? and What arXiv CC licenses are compatible with American Physical Society publishing?

From the answers to these questions, it seems that it is not possible to publis an article that is already on a preprint server (in particular arXiv.org) with a CC license in the American Physical Society (APS).

However, in Physical Review Letters (PRL), it is possible to publish open access (by paying a higher fee), and in that case APS use the CC-BY license. This license is also available for posting on arXiv.org.

My question therefore is: If an article has been posted on a preprint server using the CC-BY license, will APS accept it for publication in PRL, either using their normal "Transfer of Copyright" (I guess not), or open-access? It looks to me as if it should work for open access, because the license under which APS would publish the article is exactly the same under which the article was posted on the arxiv.

2 Answers 2


I got a reply from APS on this issue. My question was:

We accidentally chose the CC-BY 4.0 license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ for our arXiv preprint of a manuscript submitted for publication in Physical Review Letters instead of the standard arXiv license.

Does this license conflict with the standard Transfer of Copyright agreement? If so, is it possible to instead choose the option "Retain copyright and complete the Creative Commons publication agreement"?

As far as I understand, the second option should work, since APS would publish under the same CC-BY 4.0 license as we used for the arXiv submission. Is this correct?

APS answered:

Choosing a CC-BY-4.0 license for your arXiv submission does not conflict with choosing the standard Transfer of Copyright Agreement for submission to an APS Journal.

So in short, you can use a CC-BY-4.0 license for your arXiv preprint and still publish the manuscript in PRL under the usual conditions (i.e., not open-access).


I haven't seen a definitive answer from APS, so it'd be useful to confirm with the editors directly. However, based on the agreement below there's no reason to think they would reject open access papers for that reason. They could, in principle, have some internal policy to that effect, but APS is generally quite permissive when it comes to preprints so I wouldn't expect them to. (Given that CC-BY even allows commercial redistribution after publication, it also doesn't make much sense to ban preprints just because they were posted before publication.)

When publishing under open access there's no need to transfer any copyrights. Instead, APS uses a shorter publication agreement that, in its entirety, reads

Subject to the acceptance of the [above-listed] Article for publication in a journal of the American Physical Society (APS), the Rights Holder(s), where applicable, or the Author(s) hereby agrees:

  1. To grant APS permission to publish the unpublished and original Article, the abstract forming part thereof, all associated supplemental material, and subsequent, if necessary, errata in a journal of APS under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0), http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
  2. That further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article’s title, journal citation, and DOI.
  3. That any subsequent Reply to a Comment accepted for publication in a journal of APS, for which this work is the target of the Comment, should also be published under the same Creative Commons license as this work.

By signing this Agreement, the Rights Holder(s), where applicable, or the Author(s) jointly and severally represent and warrant that the Article is original with the author(s) and does not infringe any copyright or violate any other right of any third parties. The signing person(s) also represents and warrants that they have the full power to enter into this Agreement and to make the grants contained herein.

Note that, unlike their usual copyright transfer agreement, there's no mention of preprints or copies on your website. However, since all you give them is the permission to publish the article (not the copyright to it), as far as I can tell posting the preprint under CC-BY should be fine.

For future papers it could also be worth using the standard arXiv license until you know where the paper will be published, and under what terms. The license can always be changed when the arXiv posting is updated.

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