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Author: William A. Stein
Journal Copyright Policy Gossip

Journal Copyright Gossip


This section records the gossip I've received or dug up myself about the copyright policies of certain journals. You might find it of some use, but you should treat it as gossip. If you want to be absolutely certain about a journal's policy, contact the journal yourself. If you discover that something below is incorrect, please send an email to William Stein ([email protected]). You are also encouraged to send me information about a journal.

  • So much for a ``permanent web archive...''
    On a completely different note: it seems that the Elsevier sites and (both of which are linked to from have expired --- and one has been taken over by a very embarrassing new site! So much for a "permanent web archive and rapid distribution medium for research articles in the field of mathematics".
  • Elsevier liberal copyright policy (28 May 02):
    I just received the message below from Gwen van der Heide. Note the announcement of "Elsevier Science's liberal copyright policy". Maybe your page has had a positive effect. Feel free to post this or refer to it as you see fit.

    Date: Tue, 28 May 2002 07:03:10 -0500
    From: Gwen van der Heide 
    Subject: Author Gateway - Helping authors get published
    As a subscriber to the ContentsDirect e-mail service, containing 
    tables of contents of Discrete Applied Mathematics, we would like to 
    introduce you to a new online tool for authors:
    The Author Gateway
    You can also read all about Elsevier Science's liberal copyright
    policy, which includes permission to post manuscripts on preprint
    servers, the author's homepage, or the author's institute's
    website.  [Italics added by me.]
    Best regards,
    Gwen van der Heide
  • Journal of Number Theory (29 April 02):
    I have recently had an article accepted by the Journal of Number Theory. There seems to be some confusion between the Elsevier copyright policy (which is fairly liberal, and allows a preprint version of the accepted article to be posted on a web archive) and the Academic Press policy, which does not explicitly allow this.

    I will be assuming that the Elsevier policy is the one to follow, and will leave the article on the arXiv until I'm told to take it down.

    I would like to say, though, that as a graduate student I do not feel I can follow some of the advice given by other mathematicians to "shop around". I feel that I need to be published more than anything, and that I must accept whatever terms I am given. Maybe if I were ten years older I would feel able to not publish in a journal, but right now I will sacrifice my principles to get an article into print. Update: I have just got an email from the Journal of Number Theory about their copyright policy, which says that I do still have the rights although they weren't mentioned in the form I signed. So that's cleared up. You might want to add a note to that effect :)

  • Wilfrid Hodges's page on Mathematical copyright.
  • American Mathematical Society Journals (9 August 01):
    Their current copyright form allows the author to retain copyright if he or she wishes, and says "The Work may be reproduced by any means for educational and scientific purposes by the Author(s) or by others without fee or permission with the exception of reproduction by services that collect fees for delivery of documents.". I think this means that I can put the paper on my web page, as long as I don't charge you to download it.

  • Compositio Mathematica (29 August 01):
    According to the Copyright section of this page, "The Author will be asked, upon acceptance of an article, to transfer copyright to the publisher." The actual copyright form that I recieved seemed to indicate that in particular I would lose the right to put the paper on my web page, and subsequent emails between myself and the legal department at Kluwer (Compositio's publishers) seemed to confirm this was the case. I did what seemed to be the natural thing at the time, and that was to simply withdraw the paper and submit it to another journal, and I sent an apology and an explanation to Compositio.

    But on telling my story to some of the editors I knew at Compositio, I started off some kind of small "internal enquiry", which ended up with my getting several emails from the editor-in-chief of Compositio, and also a very apologetic personal email from the Mathematics publishing editor at Kluwer. The gist of these emails was that the legal department had been rather heavy-handed, and that it certainly would be possible to submit a paper to Compositio and also to keep a copy on my web page. Hence at the end of the day, I feel Compositio treated me rather well, even though the circumstances ended up with my not publishing my paper there.

    Finally, it is worth mentioning that Compositio will, in the near future, be published by the London Mathematical Society, and the policy of the LMS seems to be that they do not object to authors putting copies of papers on their web pages.

  • Anonymous Comment (10 August 01):
    I guess one natural response to the question they pose about bothering to publish if the paper is on your web page is that journals last forever and God only knows how web distribution will work in 20 years or after the author is dead... maybe they don't realize that mathematicians (unlike any other scientists, as far as I can tell) actually do often look back at papers that are 20-30 years old (or more!).

    Plus, there must be approximately epsilon individuals who subscribe to these outrageously over-priced journals anyway! The university libraries are their only clients, and the libraries aren't going to cut the subscriptions over reasons like this (esp. if they already let Inv. Math. get away with murder for charging such high rates...). And it's not as if we go to the library less often than people did in the past (the only difference is that preprint distribution is infinitely faster). Geez.

  • Andrew Odlyzko's work (11 August 01):
    Andrew Odlyzko has many interesting papers on issues related to electronic publication. See, e.g., and

  • Derk Haank, CEO of Elsevier (11 August 01):
    Derk Haank, the CEO of Elsevier, gave a speech (plain text version) in which he gives his answer to the question "Is electronic publishing being used in the best interest of scientists?" He also wrote this letter (plain text version).

  • SIAM, Wiley, Academic Press, versus arXiv (11 August 01):
    I think it is important to know not only whether you can post papers on your own web site, but also in paper archives (such as the math arXiv). I consider the latter tremendously more important, since a central location is much more convenient than thousands of personal web pages that move every so often, and I don't think papers should disappear when someone loses interest in a web page or retires or dies. Lots of publishers don't mind personal web pages, since they know a lot of people won't bother to track down papers there, but object to archives. For example, SIAM explicitly authorizes personal web pages but is careful not to authorize archives, and Wiley explicitly forbids them.

    By the way, one of the most offensive agreements I've run across in Academic Press's. They let one put papers on personal web pages (not archives), but they require one to assert that their journal is "the only definitive repository of the content that has been certified and accepted after peer review". This really bugs me, because I have just the opposite opinion: the arXived versions of my papers are exactly what was peer reviewed and what I intended to publish, but in at least one case the published version contains a typo introduced by copyeditors at the publisher. I'm not going to put anything on my web page asserting that their version is definitive when they may have edited it at the last minute without my permission!

    Sorry for the rant--copyright really bugs me. For that matter, journal publishing does in general. I categorically avoid publishing in journals run by big commercial publishers, regardless of their copyright agreements, and avoid also academic or non-profit publishers with offensive agreements (like SIAM).

  • Statement of the CEIC (11 August 01):
    For slightly more general mathematical copyright issues see material prepared on behalf of the Committee on Electronic Information and Communication of the International Mathematical Union, which is about to appear in Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

  • Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science (17 August 01):
    I had a paper published in a Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) proceedings volume; their copyright form says, among other things:

    "The copyright transfer covers the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the contribution, including reprints, translations, photographic reproductions, microform, electronic form (offline, online), or any other reproductions of similar nature."


    "The Author may publish his/her contribution on his/her personal Web page provided that he/she creates a link to the above mentioned volume of LNCS at the Springer-Verlag server or to the LNCS series Homepage (URL: and that together with this electronic version it is clearly pointed out, by prominently adding "� Springer-Verlag", that the copyright for this contribution is held by Springer. From the Publisher's point of view, it would be desirable that the full-text version be made available from the Author's Web page only after a delay of 12 months following the publication of the book, whereas such a delay is not required for the abstract."

    I suppose this means that one is not allowed to post to a preprint server, although I have to admit that I ignored that detail. (I think I did put the copyright notice in.) I doubt that the sentence which says " would desirable..." has any legal meaning whatsoever.

  • Rob Kirby (18 August 2001):
    Rob Kirby wrote a letter on journal pricing that is relevant to journal copyright questions.

  • London Math Society: Journal of Comp. and Maths. (24 September 2001):
    I've just published a paper with The London Math Society Journal of Computation. The copyright form allows me to post my version of my paper on my web page, so long as I put a link to their web page. A nice editor at JCM (Sue Rodd) made many improvements to the typesetting of my paper and produced a pdf file of this new version. She says that I am NOT allowed to distribute that pdf file, but I am allowed to distribute my (unimproved) version of the paper. I am also allowed to distribute printouts of that pdf file. The JCM articles are available on the web to institutional subscribers.

  • More on Academic Press (29 August 2001):
    The following conversation occured on sci.math.research:
    From Michael Zieve ([email protected]):
    Today I called Academic Press requesting permission to post to the
    arxiv some papers I had published in their journals.  They refused
    to grant me this permission, even when I informed them that it
    meant I would never again publish in their journals.  I am posting
    this article to inform other mathematicians of Academic Press's
    policy of hindering mathematical communication.  Hopefully this
    post will encourage other mathematicians to think twice about
    publishing in Academic Press journals.
    Mike Zieve
    Here is a list of Academic Press journals:
    Advances in Applied Mathematics
    Advances in Mathematics
    Applied and Computational Harmonic Analysis
    European Journal of Combinatorics
    Finite Fields and Their Applications
    Historia Mathematica
    Information and Computation
    Journal of Algebra
    Journal of Algorithms
    Journal of Approximation Theory
    Journal of Combinatorial Theory
    Journal of Complexity
    Journal of Computational Physics
    Journal of Differential Equations
    Journal of Functional Analysis
    Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications
    Journal of Multivariate Analysis
    Journal of Number Theory
    Journal of Symbolic Computation
    From John McCarthy ([email protected])
    Newsgroups: sci.math.research
    That's one way to do it.  I put an article of mine on my web site and
    sent email, claiming it as fair use, and challenging them to sue me.
    I heard no more from them.
    Back in the early days, ACM had a policy that articles couldn't be put
    on web pages accessible to more than 800 people.  I put my basic Lisp
    paper on my web site and challenged them to sue.  The reply was, "I
    hereby give you permission."
    So far as I know, the publishers have contented themselves with empty
    From Greg Kuperberg ([email protected])
    I wouldn't put it in exactly these terms myself, but since Mike mentions
    it, I'm in the same position.  I would like to arXiv my old papers but
    Academic Press refused permission.
    Let me note, for those who haven't heard, that Elsevier just bought
    Academic Press (as part of Harcourt).  So one question is whether the
    anti-free-archive policy extends across all Elsevier journals, or if it
    is only a pre-acquisition holdover.
    Greg Kuperberg ([email protected])
    Kevin Buzzard wrote:
    > I found it very surprising that I, as a random mathematician, could,
    > by carefully telling the right people, apparently change the policy
    > of a publishing company.
    But did you actually change Kluwer's policy, or did they fall back
    to a second tier of policy for complainers?  I.e. does the standard
    Kluwer copyright agreement now address your concerns?
    Personally I find the copyright policies of some of the commercial
    publishers is as clear as mud.  There's a lot of "I'll have to ask higher
    management", and "we'd prefer not but there is no strict rule", and "for
    you we'll make an exception".  Not to mention the bad cop/good cop routine
    that you got.  Not to mention unanswered e-mail, another common outcome.
    Not to mention saying yes to one author and no to the next one.
    I am tired of haggling.  Many mathematicians want to freely distribute
    their work.  The publishers should clearly state their policies and stick
    to their word.  Indeed the publishers compete for submissions at least
    as much as for subscriptions, so why not have them compete on their
    copyright policy?  I have compiled an index of links to the copyright
    forms of a number of math publishers:
    As you can see there are some big differences.  In particular the AMS
    and some of the free electronic journals offer exemplary terms.
    My advice is to shop for the best terms from the get-go.