Academic “Social Media” and Copyright

Academic social media sites are becoming commonplace. Referred to as “Scholarly Collaboration Networks,” (SCN’s), sites such as ResearchGate,, and were all created to allow academics to share their work and network with others in their chosen fields.

One interesting aspect of these sites is the degree to which they encourage the uploading of academic papers to their sites. While this may seem like a good idea, authors who choose to do this may be violating the copyright agreement they signed when the article was published.

Journals disseminate their content through subscriptions, both hard copy and digital. They earn revenue through these subscriptions, and authors who share their published work without permission are (1) violating the agreement of the copyright that they’ve signed, and (2) denying the publisher of their subscription fee.

ResearchGate is currently being sued by Elsevier and the American Chemical Society to stop the uploading of papers to their sites, and it is unclear how these actions may affect authors. Based on agreements signed at publication, authors may be opening themselves up to lawsuits. It is important to understand the limitations of each copyright agreement signed, because different publishers have different expectations.

For example, I recently signed an agreement with Taylor & Francis that contain my rights as an author. With regard to sharing, the agreement explicitly states that I have the right to:

  • freely post the original version of the manuscript that was initially submitted to the journal, prior to review (the AOM: Author’s Original Manuscript)
  • freely post the accepted manuscript (the AM), but not the final version of record (VOR) and that:
    • I “include any amendments or deletions or warnings relating to the article issues or published by us” AND
    • I include the following acknowledgment, “The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is available in”
    • I follow the embargo set forth by some journals for sharing the AM ( Their criminal justice journals have an 18 month embargo period.
    • I have permission to upload the final VOR if I paid for open access rights (T&F charges around $2,300 for gold access).
  • share the digital VOR with colleagues (i.e,. single copies via email) or printed version via regular mail
  • share the printed VOR with my students

Wiley has a similar policy, which can be found in this handy image (and similar in concept to the T&F guidelines):

 Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 4.17.24 PM


Because I rarely use them, I recently deleted my profiles on and ResearchGate. I figured it wasn’t worth the hassle, and it’s unclear whether publishers are going to start suing academics who upload articles without permission.
Scholars looking for a way to highlight their research and publications should investigate Google Scholar (click on “My Profile” to create an account), which contains links to articles as well as access, for those who subscribe. Google Scholar has its issues (double-counting, counting incorrect articles, etc.) but scholars can edit their list of publications and make corrections when needed.
In addition, journals are increasing requiring the use of ORCID‘s in order to uniquely identify authors, particularly those with common names. Registration is free, and this serves as a site for highlighting your work without needing (or being prompted to) upload papers.
Update: I just found this blog post from Nature, in which they surveyed scholars for their views on SCN’s.

Published by christinadejong

I am an Associate Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. My areas of research focus generally on gender and justice, as well as genocide and violence in conflict.

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