I know that some journals allow public archiving of publications (making them available for download) on a researcher's personal website. Some of these journals (at least in my field), however, constrict this right by saying that it is only allowed to public archive after one year following publication. EDIT: My question is concerned with the time frame of this first year or with the situation where journals do not allow public archiving.

To make a publication available to an interested reader, who is unable to obtain the article from the publisher due to institutional subscription policies, does one risk any legal problems on putting the following sentence on his/her website:

Feel free to contact me if you are interested in a copy of any of my publications.

  • 3
    Oh, probably. Feel free to contact me anyway.
    – JeffE
    Oct 14, 2012 at 1:46
  • 1
    A related question I recently posted on Law
    – David Z
    Apr 5, 2016 at 17:29

3 Answers 3


This will likely vary from journal to journal, but the information should be available in the "authors" section on a journal's webpage. For example, Science provides the document "License to Publish—Information for Authors" document, which clearly states:

Once the Work has been published in Science and provided the Work's first appearance in Science is properly cited, authors may:


  • Distribute photocopies of the Work to colleagues for non-commercial purposes only (providing that recipients are informed that they may not further distribute or copy the Work). Authors may distribute photocopies or download and email the Science PDF to their colleagues for their colleagues' personal use provided the recipients understand that the copy may not be further distributed or reproduced without the approval of AAAS.

This license would allow what you described, as it's non-commercial.


With respect to the specific question of writing such a statement, there is no implication of an agreement that sending you an email will automatically lead to receiving a copy of the publication. If there are specific restraints on your distribution of preprints, then you can explain those limitations when a preprint is not available.

Alternatively, you could indicate which papers are "embargoed," and include a statement that says: "Except where noted, preprints are available by contacting the author," or something to that effect.


Short answer: So far, I did not see a copyright transfer agreement, which did forbid an author to distribute pre-prints for his/her personal use by e-mail, or in a printed form.

Long answer: The answer always depends on the particular publication. Whenever you submit your camera-ready copy, you usually also submit a signed copyright transfer agreement, or a document similar to it. Therein, you always have listed which rights to the work in question you are transfering to the publisher and which remain with you. Usually, in my field (CS/AI), there is a section on "Returned rights" where is explicitly stated what (publishing a preprint, distribution to colleagues, figure re-use, etc.) and how the author can, or cannot do it (obligation to include a copyright statement, etc.). Since your question is of a legal nature, I suggest contacting the publisher of the work in question and simply ask whether what you want to do is in line with copyright agreement you, or some of your co-authors signed, or whether you need to handle it differently. But before that, take a look on that publisher's website, all the major ones have these policies quite explicitly, and often including FAQs and other guidelines, listed on their websites.

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