I have two articles published in a conference proceeding which are not accessible on the Internet. The publisher published three selected articles in SCI journals, but the rest of the articles are not available online on any kind of platform except for the list of titles, which was published at the time of the conference.

I want to self-archive the article in a public library (Arxiv etc.) but the conference publisher refused and said that the copyrights belong to the publisher and I cannot make it available on any other platform.

In the given situation, how can I make my work available to the research community?

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    This is really weird. They keep the copyright to a bunch of articles that they simply discard? – Cape Code Dec 20 '16 at 8:22
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    You may want to check if there were any clauses in the copyright transfer about them actually publishing the paper (I don't recall if this is something that is commonly found in such agreements). – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 20 '16 at 8:35
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    This is not unusual in certain fields (like applied math). However, it is also common to flaunt the rules by posting a preprint on the arXiv (preferably before publishing it in the conference proceedings) or just posting a preprint on one's personal webpage. My own approach is to just avoid conference proceedings as they are notoriously difficult to access. – David Ketcheson Dec 20 '16 at 8:37
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    @MBK Ask the publisher for a copy of the agreement. They are bound to provide it to you. – user207421 Dec 21 '16 at 1:18
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    @valentin Could you try to dig up some reference for this claim? I'd like to read up on this (and had signed over copyrights for many texts within the EU already). – Dirk Dec 21 '16 at 11:51

This is a challenging situation to be in. If you have signed over the copyright to the publisher, then you cannot legally redistribute the work without the publisher's authorization. I assume you did not realize the publisher's policy was so restrictive when you first submitted the paper; you might want to make a note to self to take a closer look at author rights before submitting, in the future! (And warn friends and colleagues away from that publisher.)

Copyright protects expression of ideas (e.g. the text and images), not the ideas themselves. Even if you have signed away the copyright to your paper, you are free* to write a new paper on the same ideas, using new text and images. So, I suggest:

  • Write a new version of your paper, without directly copying large parts of the conference paper verbatim. It can be a much shorter version. Include in it a note saying that the version from the conference proceedings is available on request; give your email address so that people can contact you for a copy.
  • You own the copyright to this new work. Post it on your website, on arXiv, anywhere else you like.

This way, people can still learn about the contents of the conference paper, and can contact you if they want you to email the full version, which you can't redistribute online.

* Free, in the sense that no copyright restrictions apply. However, in terms of ethical standards on duplicate publication, if you want to publish a new paper based on the same ideas in another conference or journal, make sure the new venue permits it.

  • Copyright protects expression of ideas (e.g. the text and images), not the ideas themselves. Is this universal in academic publishing? – Orion Dec 20 '16 at 21:44
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    @Orion This is universal in copyright law. – ff524 Dec 20 '16 at 21:46
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    @Orion remember (and this is a common confusion on this site) that copyright law and academic convention are almost entirely unrelated. – Flyto Dec 20 '16 at 22:31

If you are still working on the topic, I would suggest to wait a little until you have an improved version of your results (if this is possible -- probably easier in applied than in pure sciences). Then it is easier to write a new paper in which you essentially repeat the results of the old paper (not verbatim, but in a different, maybe also improved presentation), cite the old paper and show your new results.

In this way you avoid to have a "double publication", but can show your results to the world.

  • How can we cite something which does not exist no where (online)? – Coder Dec 27 '16 at 3:30
  • @Coder You should avoid to cite unpublished sources, but it is common to cite sources which only exist in print. They are often available to academics by inter-library loan. – J. Fabian Meier Dec 27 '16 at 8:38
  • @Coder: I find your comment pretty strange. You are aware that the practice of citing academic articles predates the internet by a few hundred years and that even today the majority of the world's academic articles are not available online? – Pete L. Clark Mar 10 '17 at 3:53

What you do right now, is to write a blog post about the article. You may quote the title and give the full bibliographic data of the conference submission to help search engines to find it and you should not copy the article verbatim but rewrite the story in new words. The latter is a good idea anyway since people expect different texts on a blog than in a scientific article.


In computer science it is common to make preprints of papers available online. This is essentially the same paper, but in the version before reviewers' comments were incorporated (if any) and without the publishers styling.

I have also seen this in cognitive science. Sometimes a paragraph in legalese is added to the effect that the current version is a preprint, that it may differ from the published version and that only the published version should be cited.

See for example: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/7021/1/7021_2.pdf

See also the wikipedia entry for 'Preprint'.

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    If you've signed over the copyright to the work, then self-archiving preprints is allowed only if the publisher permits it; in this case, the publisher seems to have a restrictive approach to author rights. – ff524 Dec 20 '16 at 22:21
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    Jaywalking isn't "allowed" either. Just post the paper already. – JeffE Dec 21 '16 at 14:06
  • I agree with @JeffE's comment. While it is helpful to know what is legal, it could also be a mistake to take these rules too seriously. In practice, try to doing something that is not obviously flagrant and see what happens. If the publisher contacts you and tells you to take it down, you can go from there. Academic publishers have not gotten rich by suing academics, as they well know. Not trying to put some version of the paper online could do much more damage to you and the rest of the academic world. – Pete L. Clark Mar 10 '17 at 4:02

Technically, it sounds like you can't because it is not your work anymore.

I would suggest you go back and read what ever it was you signed very, very carefully, and then bring it to the legal department of the institution who funded your work. They usually retain an ownership interest in work they fund and if you are very lucky, it might well turn out that it was never your work in the first place and that you did not have the right to sign away all publishing rights. That might render the publishers contract void (or parts of it anyway) allowing the work to be republished elsewhere.

Failing that, walk away fingers burnt and lessons learnt.

  • "They usually retain an ownership interest in work they fund and if you are very lucky, it might well turn out that it was never your work in the first place and that you did not have the right to sign away all publishing rights." Finding out that my published paper "was never [my] work in the first place" would not be lucky; it would be a nightmare scenario. – Pete L. Clark Mar 10 '17 at 4:06
  • Technically the OP can put a draft version of the work on his/her webpage. It just could happen that the publishing company might object to it later. That a publishing company would do anything more severe than tell the OP that they don't want to do further business together seems so improbable to me that claiming this without specific evidence to the contrary seems like bad advice. – Pete L. Clark Mar 10 '17 at 4:09
  • On the other hand, republishing elsewhere seems out of the question by academic ethical standards: the paper already got published in one venue. Some people retain the copyrights to their own papers upon publication; that certainly does not make double publication academically legitimate. – Pete L. Clark Mar 10 '17 at 4:11
  • @PeteL.Clark - The OP's nightmare is worse then you have imagined. They don't own it, they can't tell anyone about it and they can't reproduce it. However, if the OP didn't 'own' it outright, (ie their funder retained an interest) then the OP could not legally have lost all control over the papers as they currently have. This means that the funder may still have the right to publish the work so others can benefit from it instead of it being locked in a black hole. – Paul Smith Mar 13 '17 at 16:09
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    "Until then, it would be the same as you quoting or building on my unpublished solution to the P vs NP problem. No matter what you know about my solution, it is not yours to work on." That is an absolutely ridiculous claim. First of all: of course I can build on your unpublished work if you make it available to me. If you care to go to alpha.math.uga.edu/~pete/papers.html, you'll see that each of my last eight preprints ([40] - [47]) cites unpublished preprints. I can show you thousands of similar citations in published papers.... – Pete L. Clark Mar 14 '17 at 15:50

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