Do I lose copyright if a journal accepts my paper and publishes it? Can I send my paper to colleagues, or is this technically illegal if they do not have access to the journal via their institution (or haven't bought it themselves)? (whether people do this anyways is a different question).

In short, is there anything I cannot do or that I would be restricted in doing after having published my paper in an academic journal?

  • 11
    You need to look at the specific policies of the journal you published in -- we cannot answer this. I will say though that I've yet to hear of a journal that stops you from emailing a PDF of your paper to a colleague who asks for a copy; whether or not it's technically allowed is another story.
    – tonysdg
    May 22, 2017 at 18:32
  • I have yet to find any journal that prevents the author emailing a copy of their paper to a colleague. Publicly distributing it (eg on a website) is a different matter, but one-to-one is probably always fine. May 22, 2017 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


In most cases, journals ask for transfer of your copyright to the publisher. In these cases, you cannot technically distribute copies of the article any more without the publisher's consent.

The details of what you can and cannot do, however, differ between publishers. You will get a form upon acceptance of your paper that lists the legal details and that the publisher requires you to sign before they publish the article.


In addition to Wolfgang's response, publishers do have individual policies about what can be shared freely. For instance, many journals I have published in have provided me with a link to 50 free downloads that I can distribute to colleagues. Also, some journals allow you to share advanced drafts of your paper (like the final version submitted in Word form), but not the published paper. Check with the policies of the individual journal.

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