I want to share PDF journal articles with my research team, where the team members are all affiliated with my academic institute, a US-based university. The articles are not necessarily my publications. I can use freely available tools such as Mendeley or Zotero to accomplish this sharing. In counter to this, I am under the distinct but perhaps incorrect impression that I am prohibited from using a university-sanctioned cloud based resource such as Google Drive to accomplish this sharing even when I would follow exactly the same guidelines as I do when posting to Mendeley or Zotero.

For reference

  • I have read the Terms of Service at Mendeley and Zotero. The former states ... Accordingly, you may only post versions of Academic Papers or other Content (as defined below) on the Site if you have the right to do so. The latter states ... You have sole responsibility for the accuracy, quality, integrity, legality, reliability, appropriateness, and intellectual property ownership or right to transmit, post or upload your Submissions and to grant the rights granted by you herein.

  • I only post (share) PDFs from journal articles that can be obtained directly by our library subscription or through our library inter-loan processes.

  • I only post the PDFs to team members who have the same access as I do (i.e. all team members are affiliated with my university).

In summary, even if I post only a DOI reference to Mendeley, Zotero, or by email to my team, every one on the team can obtain the journal PDF. I (presumably) therefore also have permission to post (share) the PDF directly to Mendeley or Zotero. What would prohibit me instead from posting the PDFs directly in a team-restricted, university-sanctioned cloud service, specifically Google in this case?

  • 1
    Check the sharing policies of wherever you got the articles from.
    – Allure
    Nov 26, 2022 at 4:53
  • 2
    I suspect you'll get a more accurate answer from your librarian than from us. In particular, I would not be surprised if the answer differs from university to university depending on the contracts the library has with publishers and Mendeley and Zotero. (It may unfortunately even depend on the specific publisher of the journal in question (as well as your university), since your library may have different contracts with different publishers.) Nov 26, 2022 at 6:11
  • 1
    Are you the author of these articles or are they the work of others?
    – Buffy
    Nov 26, 2022 at 12:33
  • The subscription agreement with your institution would describe what permission you have to share. Otherwise, copyright law says you cannot copy the documents, except under whatever conditions your jurisdiction may consider as fair use / fair dealing. I would be very surprised if it makes any difference whether the sharing takes place via a "university-sanctioned cloud based resource" or by some other means (non-sanctioned cloud service, email, photocopy, etc). Nov 26, 2022 at 23:53
  • 1
    So long you only share the articles privately, nothing bad will happen. Anyone who contests this claim: please provide a real-world counterexample. Nov 27, 2022 at 16:54

1 Answer 1


You have to comply with copyright restrictions.

While you can share an article you lawfully possess with "a few" colleagues without issue, so long as it is done privately, you can't "publish" the work of others without permission from the copyright owner(s).

So, if your "cloud" is public facing and someone like myself could access it, then it is almost certainly a form of publishing and therefore likely infringing if done without permission.

But, if the "cloud" is nothing more than a private repository to which only a small group, say a research group, has access and to which others have no access you are safe enough, both legally and ethically. It isn't the "cloudy" nature of it, but who (and how many) can access it.

Note that authors normally get a license for some things when they yield copyright to a publisher, but the license is unlikely to include republishing the article, though preprints may be allowed. But it is the author, not others, who have that license.

From what you write, I'd guess you would be infringing, but it is the lawyers and courts who make the decisions. Note that if a publisher believes that you are reducing the economic value of the copyright, they will be unhappy. How unhappy is up to them.

But if you just want access to your local group, the library already seems to provide that to you.

You can, of course, publish your own work to the cloud as long as you retain copyright or an appropriate license. You can, assuming you own copyright, then attach a license to it for reuse if you desire, or you can retain all rights, which is normally the default. (Caveat: copyright law varies though it is somewhat unified across the globe.)

  • Thank you. Access would be restricted to colleagues at my institute. In further consideration, I likely hesitate because I know that any cloud service can (and will) harvest my postings for their own use. The question is therefore ... Do I violate copyright by posting to a cloud service that I know will harvest my posting for their own ends? I presume the answer is that not only must I take all actions on my part to limit who can access what I post, I must also assure that the cloud service explicitly states that it will not (purposely) release what I post to anyone in the public domain. Dec 18, 2022 at 20:19

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