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In most cases when publishing in pay-walled academic journals, the author signs a Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA) which transfers the copyright held by the authors of the paper to the journal's publisher. This means that although you may have written a paper almost entirely by yourself, you no longer hold the copyright on your research. This restricts how you may use and share your work.
Unless your work is published Open Access or you have negotiated additional rights to share your research, it is usually illegal to share the final PDF (commonly called the Version of Record) in any public forum. You may not share the copyrighted Version of Record in MarXiv, on public websites, or on listservs.
However! Most publishers allow you to share the manuscript you submitted to the journal, commonly called the preprint, in not-for-profit subject-matter-specific repositories like MarXiv at any time. Note that services like ResearchGate and Academia.edu are both for-profit and not limited to a set of subject areas — so in many cases, it is illegal to share your preprint in ResearchGate, etc.
Additionally, most publishers allow authors to publicly share the postprint — also known as the corrected proof — in MarXiv after a 1-2 year embargo period.
See our list of Self-Archiving Policies of Major Journals for a handy guide to postprint embargo periods.
Special note for US Federal Government employees: Under 17 U.S.C. §105 all works "prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties" cannot be copyrighted and are thus part of the Public Domain in the United States. This means that you can share whatever version of your paper that you want! Since you cannot copyright your work, you cannot transfer a copyright that does not exist to a publisher. Congrats!
Table of Contents
What is a preprint or postprint?
Generally speaking, a preprint is the manuscript submitted to a scholarly journal which will undergo peer review before being formally published. Preprints may also be known as an "accepted manuscript" in some journals.
The postprint is the edited and peer-reviewed, but not yet typeset, version of the manuscript. Postprints may also be known as a "corrected proof" in some journals.
For a quick primer on preprints, watch this 4-minute YouTube video.
The typical academic publishing workflow begins with a manuscript submitted to a journal for peer-review and publication. This manuscript is known as the preprint. The preprint will then undergo peer-review and editing between the author, peer reviewers, and the journal editor. At this point, when the manuscript is peer-reviewed but not typeset by the publisher, the author is asked to sign a Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA). The CTA then transfers the copyright held by the author on all forms of the manuscript (both pre- and post-peer-review) to the publisher. Before signing the CTA, we recommend authors utilize an Author Addendum to negotiate with the publisher that the author should keep full copyright on the peer-reviewed (but not typeset) manuscript. After the CTA is signed, the publisher will generate a rough-draft of the typeset and peer-reviewed manuscript, known as the postprint. After typesetting edits are made, the final publisher's PDF is created, known as the Version of Record (VOR). The VOR is what users typically download from the publisher. Some publishers make postprints available for download as an "early view" of the publication.
What can I post to MarXiv?
- Preprints: When you submit a manuscript to a journal for peer-review and publication, you should also submit the same manuscript to MarXiv right away.
- Postprints: If you have the rights to share your postprint in a repository like MarXiv, please do so!
- Reports: By sharing your group's reports in MarXiv, you'll get a unique DOI, and ensure your report is indexed by Google Scholar and other academic indexes.
- Working papers, conference proceedings, etc.: MarXiv will gladly accept other scholarly research outputs.
- Open Access publications: Have you already published an Open Access paper? If you have a Creative Commons license, or similar, you can share the work in MarXiv.
More importantly: be sure you have the legal rights to share your work in an archive like MarXiv. Certain publishers restrict where you can share a preprint/postprint. If you signed a Copyright Transfer Agreement, your rights will be detailed in this document.
For more information on submitting documents to MarXiv, see our Submission Guidelines.
How do I determine if I have the legal rights to share my paper in MarXiv?
If you have not published your work elsewhere, you should retain full copyright on the work, and thus you can share your work on MarXiv. Congratulations!
If you have published your work already, you will need to ensure you have the legal rights to post your work in MarXiv. If you published your work with no license or a Creative Commons license, you may share your work in MarXiv.
If, however, you published in a traditional pay-walled journal (by publishers like Elsevier, Wiley, Oxford Press, etc.) then you will need to consult your Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA) to identify which rights you have kept. Your CTA will outline which rights you (the author) have transferred to the publisher and which rights you (the author) have retained. Your CTA will outline which version of your work you can share (preprint, postprint, and/or final version), where you can share the work, and if there is any embargo period that must pass before sharing the work. Alternatively, you may browse our list of Self-Archiving Policies of Major Journals which can help you determine the default policies of your journal/publisher. Though, please note that your CTA is the sole legal authority for determining your copyright reservations.
What is a Copyright Transfer Agreement?
A Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA) is legal document which is generally used by publishers to "transfer" copyright on a manuscript from the author(s) to the publisher. CTAs may transfer some or all legal rights. In the end, this means the authors do not have full legal copyright on the manuscript which they produced — instead, the publisher is given these rights.
When publishing in a traditional pay-walled academic journal, the CTA will define how the author may use their manuscript. Authors may be allowed to deposit their preprint in MarXiv immediately. Or, authors may only be allowed to share their preprint after an embargo period. Every CTA is unique. We encourage all authors to consult their CTA to determine how they can legally share their work.
If you published in a traditional pay-walled academic journal, but paid for "gold" Open Access (usually identifiable with a Creative Commons license on the final document) then you may not have signed a CTA since you (the author) retains final copyright.
The SHERPA/RoMEO database of publisher copyright and self-archiving policies may help you determine which journals allow preprints to be posted publicly. Please note, however, that SHERPA/RoMEO should not be considered 100% accurate and all claims made by SHERPA/RoMEO should be verified by your CTA.
I'm about to publish my work in a traditional pay-walled journal. How can I ensure I'll be able to share my work in MarXiv?
The Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine, provided by Science Commons, offers a template to generate an addendum to your CTA. The addendum allows you to "retain sufficient rights to post a copy of the published version of your article (usually in pdf form) online immediately to a site that does not charge for access to the article."
MarXiv recommends that before signing a CTA, you utilize the Scholar's Copyright Addendum to generate an "Access - Reuse" agreement. If this addendum is accepted by the publisher, it will ensure you have the legal rights to post your paper in MarXiv immediately. For more information, see Author's Rights: Using the SPARC Author Addendum.