Recently, Elsevier has come under fire for exercising it's rights under copyright law by asking various platforms to remove copies of articles published in its journals. This has angered authors, who don't always realize that they signed away many rights when they signed a publication agreement.

authors examine their copyright transfer agreements to figure out what
they are allowed to do, two of the big questions that will impact what
they can legally do include:

  1. What version of your article do you want to post online?

  2. Where do you want to post it?
Today, I'll talk about the first question.

often make distinctions between three primary versions of a manuscript:
the pre-print, the post-print and the publishers version.

- A pre-print is the original version of the manuscript as it is
submitted to a journal. While the authors may have sought help from
their colleagues in selecting data analysis techniques, improving
manuscript clarity, and correcting grammar, the pre-print has not been
through a process of peer review. It typically looks like a term paper -
a double spaced .doc file with minimal formatting.

- A post-print is a document that has been through the peer review
process and incorporated reviewers comments. It is the final version of
the paper before it is sent off the the journal for publication. It may
be missing a final copyedit (if the journal still does that) and won't
be formatted to look like the journal. It still looks like the double
spaced .doc file. Sometimes, the term "pre-print" is used
interchangeably with "post-print," but when it comes to permissions
issues, it is important to clarify which version of a manuscript is
being discussed.

Publishers version/PDF - This is
the version of record that is published on the publishers website. It
will look quite spiffy, having been professionally typeset by the
publisher. Library databases will link to this version of the paper.

speaking, publishers are more likely to be okay with authors posting
copies of pre-print versus other manuscript versions. But each journal
is different, and authors need to be aware of what they can do. The
copyright transfer agreement is the best place to find this information.

you no longer have your copyright transfer agreement, or if you are
checking into your rights before you publish (good for you, btw), you
can check SHERPA/RoMEO to find out what you are allowed to do with your paper.

collects information about the permissions related to online sharing
("archiving") of your article for most publishers and journals. Journals
and publishers are classified according to a color scheme, and
additional restrictions are listed.

Color classifications used by SHERPA/RoMEO to help authors determine permissions
who wish to publish a copy of their articles will want to look for
journals classified as green or blue, then check on any additional

For example, I wrote an article a couple of years
ago about assessing information literacy in first-year students. The
journal is a "green" journal and my copyright transfer agreement gives
me permission to share the post-print of my article, but not the
publisher's version. I also have to make sure that I include the final
publication information inside the post-print, and link to the
publisher's version using the DOI. The PDF I posted uses standard MS
Word formatting, and I include the required information:

Post-print of my article
addition to limits on what you can share online, journals also place
limits on where you can share it. I'll talk about those issues in my next post.

course, you can avoid all of this confusion by publishing in an open
access journal where you retain the copyright for your work. See the Directory of Open Access Journals to find one in your discipline.