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I switched universities for my master's, but I still have access to my old bachelor's university accounts. Now, sometimes it happens that I can only access a journal via my old university account, since my new university does not have access to all online libraries (I cannot see studies which are in the Wiley Online Library, for example). I cannot visit ScienceDirect by Elsevier, but with my old uni's account I can.

Is it allowed to still read and use those journals using my old/previous account?

2 Answers 2

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Maybe, maybe not. Check with your old library.

Example

Access thousands of journals through your My Oxford Online account exclusively for alumni

...

Conditions of Use

These databases are being made available to you to support your ongoing research and study. Use of University database subscriptions are subject to strict licence agreements. For your protection, and for the protection of the University of Oxford, we ask that you observe and agree to the following requirements:

  • These Information Databases may be used for study and research but not for commercial purposes
  • Under no circumstances are you permitted to share your password, or otherwise make available, any content from these resources to anyone else
  • Systematic downloading or viewing of excessive amounts of data is strictly forbidden Failure to comply may result in the loss of your right of access to the databases and publishers withdrawing content from the whole university.
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    I'm curious if you know of any examples of "not", where the university forbids journal access to alumni with active accounts, but doesn't actually block it. I would tend to assume that if your account has access, then it's legitimate to use it. Commented May 7 at 3:19
  • @NateEldredge that's a fair assumption. But "not" can happen if e.g. you are intending to use the information for commercial purposes (which would be prohibited as in the quote).
    – Allure
    Commented May 7 at 3:20
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Since some pedants seem to be willfully misreading your question and my answer here, I'll briefly update with the following:

You have not indicated in your question what you mean by "allowed", which is decidedly vague. Allowed by whom? Allowed for what purpose?

  1. The government. If you obtain a copy of a piece of written academic work that is not somehow otherwise legally restricted, you may always read it and cite it. You are probably not legally allowed to make copies and distribute them. You may be able to quote a certain amount of the content under terms of fair use.

  2. Your old university. Since your old university account still has access to this material, your old university is allowing you to access it. Possibly they do not intend for you to have access to it, but it's not your responsibility to figure this out unless you think some kind of abject IT mistake has been made.

  3. The publisher. They are allowing your old university to grant access to copies, which the publisher probably distributes. You have no business with the publisher.

It sounds to me like you're acutely overthinking this question. You have access to these documents. They are presumably not state secrets, or accessed via a deliberate attempt to circumvent access restrictions. You cannot be prevented from obtaining, reading, and citing them.

There is a very long academic tradition of getting your hands on relevant materials in the cheapest way possible. There may be formal text of whatever licensing agreements your old university has with various publishers. Those will indicate that there are restrictions on whom the university should give access to and not. This is not your responsibility to enforce.

Even more generally, there's no way to discover that you've "inappropriately" obtained a copy of any given work unless you publicize that fact rather widely. Typically the thing that will get you in hot water with publishers is redistributing their copyrighted or licensed works such that it substantially undercuts them. That is illegal, and could get you sued for money damages.

As an example, what if you had downloaded copies or printed copies of papers whilst you were a student? There's no mechanism or expectation that you'll destroy those copies once you've graduated.

In short: Just download whatever you need that you have access to, it's extraordinarily unlikely to be a problem.

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    This does not address the actual question above.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 6 at 14:42
  • @JonCuster With due respect, that's patently incorrect. The asker wants to obtain copies of something via account access that they have. Is it allowed? Either the question is extraordinarily simple: Yes it is allowed, because they still have access via their account. Or it is a question about copyright or similar. In which case: Yes, it's still allowed. This is a Stack where we're supposed to answer realistically about how academia works. An addiction to legalism in this case would not just be inappropriate, it'd be misleading.
    – user176372
    Commented May 6 at 15:15
  • @JonCuster I've updated the answer in case it can shock you to read both the question and the answer more closely. Though I'm somehow skeptical.
    – user176372
    Commented May 6 at 15:46
  • Truly fascinating to learn that this community prefers to obscure the reality of how this system works in practice the name of legalism on behalf of...the publishers? University IT departments? I didn't quite realize we were an opinion board.
    – user176372
    Commented May 6 at 15:59
  • "It sounds to me like you're acutely overthinking this question." I agree. Commented May 6 at 16:04

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