Last week, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices targeting APA articles on 80 university websites in an attempt to restrict unauthorized use of submissions to APA journals. In some cases, this resulted in the removal of academic authors’ articles from personal websites and university repositories. In response to the outcry from authors, the APA altered its pilot program to focus on removing articles from piracy sites rather than also targeting individual authors. APA also reiterated that authors may post their pre-print submissions (not the final version as published by an APA journal), as per their publication agreements with the APA.
This is not the first time that a journal publisher has targeted academic articles on university websites with DMCA takedown notices. In 2013, Elsevier, publisher of nearly 2,000 research journals, began sending takedown notices to individual researchers and universities targeting articles posted on university-hosted pages. Like the APA, Elsevier distinguished between authors posting the final versions of articles from those posting earlier versions.
Although these publishers may have acted within their rights to send these takedown notices, for authors looking to share work broadly, it is hard to imagine a situation more frustrating than not being being able to share their own works. In the face of the possibility that DMCA takedown notices targeting institutional repositories may increase, what can authors do?
- Review the terms of your publishing agreement: Many journal publishing agreements allow for journal authors to self-archive pre-print versions of their articles on personal websites, university repositories, and author networking sites (sometimes with an embargo period). Check the terms of your agreement to see whether this is permitted, and, if so, replace your article with an allowed version.
- Review your institution’s open access policy: If your institution has an open access policy, it may allow you to deposit a copy of your work in your institutional repository without infringing on your publisher’s rights. If in doubt, check with your institution’s Copyright or Scholarly Communications Office.
- Retain the rights you need to make future works available in the ways you want: When presented with a publishing contract, review the terms of the contract and don’t be shy about negotiating for terms that allow you to share your work on personal websites, university repositories, and author networking sites. For more information on how to negotiate with your publisher to allow you to share your work, see Chapter 6 of our guide to Understanding Open Access. You can also review journal publishers’ standard policies regarding self-archiving on the SHERPA/RoMEO database and opt to submit your work to journals that give you more control of your work.
- Reach out to your institution’s Copyright or Scholarly Communications Office: Copyright and scholarly communications staff can help you understand what rights you retained in your publication agreement, whether any version of your work can be posted online, and whether a copy can be uploaded to your institution’s repository. They can also help you understand your publishing contract before you sign.
For more information, check out our FAQ on copyright, which outlines some of the ways that authors can manage their copyrights in innovative ways, including with regard to academic journals. And our guide to Understanding Open Access provides even more detail about OA publication strategies.