What happens if I am unable to pay the article processing charge after my paper was published in a open access journal? I had asked for a full waiver from the very beginning and clearly communicated that we cannot publish unless a full waiver is granted (and even before submitting the rights form I requested them) but they did not revert. Now after publishing they are asking for APC USD 1300 and I being the first author (a 6th year PhD student) cannot afford to pay and my prof is retired too (this is my previous lab work). Now they threaten to take legal action against me as I am the one who submitted the manuscript. Kindly advice. Has anyone gone through such a situation?

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    If a big company is threatening legal action against you, seek the advice of a qualified professional lawyer as fast as you possibly can. Since you appear to have submitted this paper as a representative of a university, your first port of call should probably be the university's in-house legal team. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 17:27
  • As everyone else is saying: get legal advice quickly! And if I had to guess the legal case probably boils down whether you clicked on a button that said "I will pay the APC fee if you publish the work". If you did, I'd guess that it doesn't matter that you previously said that you won't. But IANAL. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 18:31
  • Unfortunately, in the US an hour long consultation with a lawyer can easily cost you $500. Talk to the chair of your graduate program, see what do they suggest. Maybe there is a mini-grant you can apply for to resolve this issue. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 22:06
  • Yes, will do that.
    – Snp11
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 5:05

1 Answer 1


It is a bit strange that they published article before you paid the open access fees. A friend of mine was in the same situation but they did not publish the article before payment and in the end he just withdrew his submission (even though he had a letter of acceptance) and submitted elsewhere.

Concerning the legal point of view: depends on the country you are in but if you always said that are not going to pay the fee (eg "I only transfer the rights if the open access fee is waived") you shouldn't have a problem.

Another advice: are you sure that the department, university, library... does not have any financial support for the open access fee?

Maybe also interesting: Submission to OA journals when you can't pay the fees

  • It is that this publication is from my previous lab and nothing to do with my current university. So I think my current Prof or university can not fund this.
    – Snp11
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 17:47
  • @ Snp11 - In case you have a good relation with him, it might be worth asking.
    – Dr.M
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 18:51
  • Yeah, he is good to me but unfortunately he is out of funding currently and is not even paying me a stipend. So I truly can not afford to pay Elsevier. I have again asked them to withdraw my paper but no reply yet from them.
    – Snp11
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 21:45

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