U.S.A. Many university libraries are archiving, digitizing and posting works by their faculty members online in digital repositories. The benefits are many for the university community—including the ability to share work with colleagues around the world. But copyright law is complex and many publishers do not allow the final .pdf copy of an article to be posted by the author. Elsevier has served thousands of take-down notices to sites and individual authors that post the final version of an article online.

Libraries use a tool called SHERPA-RoMEO to determine publishers’ status on what version of the article can be posted. Publishers are assigned a color. Green means that authors and universities can archive any version of the article they want. Yellow means they can only post a pre-print of the article, and some publishers do not allow any version of any article to be posted. It’s incredibly important that libraries and authors pay attention to what status the publisher is, so as not to risk legal action. This website is still not a guarantee that the publisher will not issue a take-down notice. In addition, it is important that when authors choose to publish their work, they pay attention to what rights they are signing away. In most cases to get published in an academic publication they must give up their copyright ownership.

Elsevier, who has been most notably in the news for issuing take-down notices to authors, has stated that they do this “to ensure that the final published version of an article is readily discoverable and citable via the journal itself in order to maximize the usage metrics and credit for our authors, and to protect the quality and integrity of the scientific record.” However, the content is also controlled then solely by the publisher and can typically only be bought by libraries through expensive subscriptions and packages.

Whether authors are attempting to post their work in library-run digital repositories or on their own university webpages, many academics have declared Elsevier an “enemy of science.” The issue goes even further, as for most open access journals authors must pay fees to have their article published and must carry the burden of that cost. For non-open access publishers, the business model is based on paid-access after the article is published. So whether an article is published open access or not, either the author or the library has to pay.

Developing a sustainable way for publishers, authors, and libraries to work together is of the utmost importance. Digital repositories run by university libraries have become a way for authors to showcase their research and hard work, but they are unable to post the final version of the articles. In recent court cases, including the ones involving Google books and the HathiTrust digital library, judges have been ruling in favor of the libraries and institutions that are digitizing the work. Libraries want to provide access to research materials as much as possible, but we must do so in a way that is fair to the authors and respectful of their copyright ownership as well. Ultimately, fostering research and encouraging the dissemination of information should be the end goal for both publishers and libraries, but I sense it will be a long time before either of the current business models of publishing will change.