I have read the Springer copyrights and self-archiving policy, but they are a bit confusing. For example in the first of them, you may find this:

Author may self-archive an author-created version of his/her Contribution on his/her own website and/or the repository of Author’s department or faculty.

And here is the quote from the second source:

Authors may self-archive the author’s accepted manuscript of their articles on their own websites. Authors may also deposit this version of the article in any repository, provided it is only made publicly available 12 months after official publication or later. He/ she may not use the publisher's version (the final article), which is posted on SpringerLink and other Springer websites, for the purpose of self-archiving or deposit. Furthermore, the author may only post his/her version provided acknowledgement is given to the original source of publication and a link is inserted to the published article on Springer's website. The link must be provided by inserting the DOI number of the article in the following sentence: “The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/[insert DOI]”.

Do I understand correctly that I can put my own version of the manuscript at my own (or my institute's) website immediately after acceptance, but I can submit it to arXiv only 12 months later after official publication? If so, it seems to me it doesn't make sense. If the manuscript is made publicly available just after acceptance at my own website, why cannot it be made publicly available at the same time at arXiv?

  • Question in the title is diametrically opposite to question in the body.
    – Ben Voigt
    Apr 30, 2015 at 16:01
  • You might want to consult the SHERPA/RoMEO database. sherpa.ac.uk/romeo . Policies may depend on specific journal in question. But yeah, it seems like that is their default policy.
    – tomasz
    Apr 30, 2015 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


The short answer is: yes, staggered posting rights like this are very common - many journals distinguish between your own website, your institutional repository, and a broader repository (eg arXiv, pubmed), with different rules about what version of the article can be posted and when; some have also begun to provide a special category for sites like ResearchGate.

The underlying answer -

Why on earth do they do this?

On the one hand, this doesn't make sense - the PDF is the PDF and once it's picked up by a search engine, it's going to be readable wherever it's hosted. But consider it in terms of discoverability and scale:

  • one hundred papers from the journal on one hundred obscure personal sites;
  • one hundred papers from the journal on twenty well-organised institutional sites; or
  • one hundred papers from the journal on one disciplinary repository

From a publisher's perspective, the first option is not something to worry about, while the second & particularly third options look quite scary. Remember, what they really don't want is everyone saying "great, we can get this all from arXiv, cancel next year's subscription please". So an embargo period gets attached to the repository copies - many journals (most prominently PNAS) manage fine on a subscription basis while still making older papers freely accessible after a year or two, and so it's well-understood that allowing delayed access in one form or another will not ruin the subscription income.

Now, mass cancellation because of self-deposited papers being available instantly is a bit of a bogeyman. No-one's really shown it would happen on a large scale (and indeed arXiv suggests otherwise); library budgets are not (yet) squeezed enough that we've had to start thinking seriously about it; and in any case "big deal" subscription models often make it impractical to cancel specific titles. But it's looming as the threat and most publishers simply don't want to risk it... so they produce very conservative guidance on what you're allowed to do, and work from there.

Over the past few years, many of these publisher limits have loosened slightly as they discover the sky didn't fall, which I suppose is something. At the time of writing, at a very loose generalisation, policies for non-medical scientific journals are mostly converging along the lines of "accepted MS immediately on your own site, accepted MS in a repository after a year, publisher/proof PDF never", but there are a thousand variations.

  • 6
    ... And the reason for allowing arXiv after the 12 month embargo period may very well be that Springer Heidelberg is subject to German law - and the German copyright law now includes an inalienable right of the authors of publicly funded work to secondary publication of the accepted manuscript after 12 months (e.g. on arXiv). So you'd anyways have this right, they just spell it out, probably to avoid an international legal mess. May 4, 2015 at 11:52

Here's a closely related question.

And yes, I think it's a bizarre and inexcusable policy--I was so shocked when I realized that they are demanding this that I asked the question linked above.

I am not a lawyer but it is not clear to me why you could not submit to the arXiv prior to signing the copyright transfer agreement. In the absence of a contract with Springer, I cannot see how they can possibly have any say over what you do with your manuscript. They can refuse to take manuscript that is posted on the arXiv, and they can refuse to do business with you again -- but if you haven't signed a contract, you cannot have violated one.

That said, they leave open a loophole big enough to drive a train through, and seem to me that they do so deliberately. From their policy right after the part you quoted:

Prior versions of the article published on non-commercial pre-print servers like arXiv.org can remain on these servers and/or can be updated with the author’s accepted version.

So it seems to me (again not a lawyer) that provided that you post to the arXiv pre-submission, you are welcome to update it with the accepted version without waiting the 12 months after publication. That seems the obvious course of action, especially given all of the reasons to post to the arXiv at submission time anyway.

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    The problem is that this loophole is closed by the specific journal that I want to submit my paper to. This journal explicitly states that it does not accept manuscripts which were already posted at online repositories. It seems the only option is to use my own website.
    – ThisGuy
    Apr 30, 2015 at 4:57
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    That's infuriating. I would find another journal; I wouldn't want to publish in any journal that disallowed arXiv posting -- doing so is deliberately slowing the pace of science and the dissemination of research.
    – Corvus
    Apr 30, 2015 at 5:02
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    Is it allowed to upload a paper on arXiv after the submission/acceptance but before signing the copyright transfer agreement? I haven't checked all the small print but in the parts I have read there is nothing against it. Apr 30, 2015 at 6:14
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    @FedericoPoloni - I would be very cautious about assuming that the journal will be happy with this; the acceptance and CTA are closely linked together and it doesn't really make sense to treat them as seperate events. Apr 30, 2015 at 7:28
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    I agree with @Andrew, and while the following scenario is very hypothetical, if you were to go and find a loop hole like that, there's no guarantee that the journal will not use the loophole "while we accepted your paper, we never did say which issue we will publish it in; we may get around to printing it in 2055." The point is that there are "reasonable expectations". Based on available information it is pretty darn clear that using this loophole would make somebody unhappy. // That said, if posting on arXiv really were that important to you, you would've submitted to a different journal... Apr 30, 2015 at 8:51

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