There's an old paper (15+ years) of mine, with average citation numbers. It's pay-walled.

I'd like to just post it on my web site, in its final version. Is this something I might regret?

Has a publisher ever taken any action against a researcher hosting a PDF copy of their own paper?

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    Do you know the publication policy at your institution? Sometimes they negotiate specific rights to publish the work, especially if it was produced with sponsored funding. There can be restrictions (hence open access is a thing), but you should check with your institution where you published the work. This may help as a primer for what you should look into: authorsalliance.org/2023/08/18/… Commented Jun 22 at 1:37
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    Would you be willing to pay to get the article to open source? I could imagine that after this long the fee for open access might be lower. You might want to reach out to the publisher to see what options they offer to spread your paper further.
    – usr1234567
    Commented Jun 22 at 14:42

3 Answers 3


I do not know about any instance where a publisher has taken legal action against a researcher hosting their own work on their own webpages, but such publishers would probably send legal warning and threats before going to such extent. In any case, you have many alternate solutions to publishing exactly the same version as the one protected by a paywall:

  1. It is common usage to have a preliminary version of one's own article on your own webpage (especially in case like the one you described, where the final article is behind a pay-wall), as long as you point to the final article on the website of the publisher.

  2. If your preliminary version is not good enough (or if you do not have one), and if you are really worried about publisher suing you if you publish the official version, I would suggest to do a "pedagogical version" (with some additional explanations and figure, and a distinct formatting from that of the publisher), publishing it on your own website with a pointer to the official, shorter version on the publisher's website.

Hope it helps!

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    Actually, one could start by asking the publisher for permission to post it. Under some circumstances it might be granted.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 22 at 12:04
  • If I were a publisher my first step would be sending a DMCA takedown request. Web hosts and internet providers seem to honor these. Commented Jun 23 at 14:44
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    Note that in practice the only difference between the final and preliminary version might be that the final version is in the particular style and font of the journal whereas the preliminary version is in whatever style and font the author used to write the paper.
    – quarague
    Commented Jun 24 at 10:42

In mathematics, physics, astronomy, and other hard sciences, it is a very normal practice to post articles on https://arxiv.org/ Moreover, in many areas it is regarded unusual not to do so.

This tradition established, no one frowns at people posting those works also on their personal webpages.

To be on the safe side, it is better not to use a specific documentclass provided by the journal. Just use some common format. Like, say, \documentclass[12pt]{article} .

Even if you post the article in the journal format, the chances of someone going after you are asymptotically approaching zero, especially 15 years after publication. Put yourself in the shoes of the publisher: will it be worth wasting their time and resources for the amount of money at stake? But then, again, better safe than sorry: use a standard documentclass, not a journal paper pdf.

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    That is completely different from posting the journal PDF on your website though, which also is common practice in physics and is explicitly allowed by some publishers.
    – Anyon
    Commented Jun 22 at 17:50
  • The journal putting a final version of a paper on arXiv or similar is vastly different from the author(s) doing so without explicit permission. I think this is probably dangerous advice. Preprints, not final versions, are a different matter, since the journal has an investment in the paper.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 23 at 16:14
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    @Buffy "The journal putting a final version of a paper on arXiv" You probably misunderstood me. It is the authors who put their works on arXiv. This has become a standard practice. Commented Jun 23 at 19:39

It's not worth risking to get into trouble with. In most cases you are allowed to give the pdf of your article to individual colleagues, so you may add on your web page a statement that you send a version to interested parties upon request.

And, of course, you should have published the preprint version with a preprint server (such as arXiv) already 15 years ago. However, this may still be possible, but you should check with the publisher and with the license agreement.

  • Preprint culture was super very common outside of the mathematical sciences until recent years. It's not clear what field OP is in, but that part may not be super relevant. Commented Jun 23 at 15:37

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