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At least in computer science, many publishers allow authors to make their published articles (or final manuscripts of them) freely available on their personal web site. A usual condition is to provide a link to the publisher's web service, where the "official version" of the article can be found.

However, there is one peculiar point about this issue: in most cases, the copyright agreement contains a condition that the link has to be "accompanied by" some text, such as "The original article is available at XYZ". I would like to ask what does this mean, precisely. The main reasons I have for this are:

  • Many scientists make their articles freely available online and many of them provide links to publisher's web pages. However, I have never seen a personal web page containing text like "The original article is available at XYZ". For this reason, I do not have a slightest idea about how the accompanying text should (precisely) look like.
  • Suppose that you have a bilingual web page. In this case, taking the above condition literally would imply that you could make your articles available only from the English version of your site (or at least you should include an English text in the non-English version of your site).
  • The term "accompanied by" can be interpreted in a variety of ways. For instance, is it OK to follow the link by an HTML comment containing the requested text?

So my question is: What is the usual interpretation of this condition? And what is the most common legal way to satisfy the publisher in this respect? Thank you in advance.

  • "I have never seen a personal web page containing text like (...)" - maybe it's not the exact wording, but I have frequently come across papers stored on university websites whose authors placed a remark about where to find the original version on the publisher's site within the PDF file. Look at the to appear in note in this paper and the header in this one as examples of what I mean (both files are hosted by unis). – O. R. Mapper Apr 10 '16 at 13:46
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    I believe the usual way is to ignore such strict requirements. People just give the usual citation information and a link to the published version. If a publisher can't accept that and raises an issue, it's their loss in the long term, as their business is almost entirely based on the goodwill from the academia and the volunteer work done by researchers. – Jouni Sirén Apr 10 '16 at 13:50
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    Interesting question. I simply don't care what the publisher says. Sue me. – Dilworth Apr 10 '16 at 14:15
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The main issue in these circumstances (to my knowledge) is mainly to ensure that the exact version which you can host (i.e. your original version, the version after edits and reviewer comments, and the final version that was actually published). SAGE has a good overview on this issue here.

On this page it clearly mentions that when you host it anywhere, to "please make the following acknowledgement: 'The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in [Journal], Vol/Issue, Month/Year published by SAGE Publishing, All rights reserved'".

From my non-legal perspective, I notice to things. Number 1, the Dos and Donts are clear spelled out with "you may" and "you may not". This condition starts with "please". So, for one, I find it hard to believe that such a condition is legally binding, and that if you change the wording slightly it should be fine. In fact, looking at this closely, I don't even think I have a legal imperative to put any link whatsoever (at least according to this specific publisher and this speicific journal).

In the end, the matter rests in the kind of copyright agreement that you've signed with the publisher, but I cannot imagine a situation where you've followed all of the guidelines, put the link and the citation, but then get sued for slightly changing the wording on exactly how you refer to it. On the other hand, if this is the wording that they want, why not just put it using the words and terms and just clearly avoid these issues altogether?

Bottom line, ignore what other people do; just take the publisher's method, wording, and whatever else in order to make sure you don't run-afoul of any ethical, or legal issues now or in the future.

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