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Is it ok to share papers through private email

  1. Feb 26, 2009 #1
    I am communicating with other researchers in neuroscience. Sometime they dont have access to a paper we may be discussing. For example the university access i have (Athens) has limits with each major publisher having some journals subscribed to Athens and some not.

    I wanted to know what other academics do in these situations.

    Well two things i guess. I am asking about this.

    1. What are the rules about this. Is it ok to attach a copy of paper ?

    2. What actually happens in real life if its not ok. Are these rules broken so that communication and progress can happen in spite of these barriers.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 26, 2009 #2


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    No, it's illegal to distribute copyrighted material without prior authorisation.

    Technically, you can be taken to court. Whether you're willing to take this risk is your decision!
  4. Feb 26, 2009 #3
    What about cutting out some relevant paragraphs from a paper and quoting them ?

    Often i see papers on academic pages available to read even though they are subscripton only if you go to the journal. Is this some kind of arrangement that researchers make with the journals ?
  5. Feb 26, 2009 #4
    You can send it to another researcher. Even if it is illegal (which I'm not sure it is) there's zero chance of anyone complaining about it.
  6. Feb 26, 2009 #5
    What constitutes fair-use with respect to journal articles?
  7. Feb 27, 2009 #6


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    Librarians are very resourceful people who specialize in digging up archived information. It's been my experience that whenever I've had trouble obtaining an article, a call or email to one of the university librarians will get it to me within 48 hours. I believe they have access through inter-library loans.
  8. Feb 27, 2009 #7


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    Very unlikely that you'll get into trouble.
  9. Feb 27, 2009 #8
    Sharing papers like driving over the speed limit. Everyone does it, just don't do it in excess and you wont get in any trouble.
  10. Feb 27, 2009 #9


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    Choppy has a good point. If you are corresponding with someone who doesn't have access to relevant papers, he or she should learn how to take advantage of the skills of the research librarians.

    Also, be aware that even if a paper is printed in a subscription-only journal, the author(s) may have posted a copy of it on Arxiv. Just Google-search the title enclosed in double-quotes and you'll often find free access.
  11. Feb 27, 2009 #10
    Just send it. If you're really worried, email the author; the copyright permissions granted to journals upon publication generally don't extend to the point of not being able to distribute one's own work (and if a journal does have that policy, don't publish with them!).

    E.g., from the publishing arm of the Institute of Physics: "Authors may also send or transmit the final published article in any format to colleagues on specific request provided no fee is charged and it is not done systematically through, for example, mass-mailings, posting on list-servs or other open websites."

    For the American Physical Society's journals: "The author is permitted to provide, for research purposes and as long as a fee is not charged, a PDF copy of his/her article using either the APS-prepared version or the author prepared version."

    And I don't know anything about neuroscience journals, but here's the European Journal of Neuroscience's policy: "You may share print or electronic copies of the Article with colleagues."

    Most journals also give permission for the authors to post the article on their own web site, so you can check that too.

    But really, don't worry about it.
  12. Feb 27, 2009 #11


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    We not only self-published our paper on our website, but as soon as the revised, refereed version was accepted for publication (Astrophysics and Space Sciences - a Springer journal) the editor encouraged us to submit it to Arxiv, then Springer distributed it to subscribers electronically prior to print publication. Paper #2 is in the works, and given Springer's very professional and open treatment of our work, we're sticking with them.
  13. Feb 27, 2009 #12
    Thanks for clearing this up.

    I was also considering collecting all the papers referenced in a paper i'm submitting to make life easier for the referees. Looks like that is not a problem as long as they are left on a private server.
  14. Feb 27, 2009 #13


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    That would just come across as unprofessional. Referees should have access to just about every journal that would be referenced in a paper they are reviewing. In fact, they should be intimately familiar with the main references without even having to look at them.
  15. Feb 27, 2009 #14


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    The rules are determined by your library's subscription, and are journal dependent. Check with your librarian if you are unsure.

    Most recent neuroscience papers should be free with 6 months to a year (I can't remember which) because of the new NIH rules. http://publicaccess.nih.gov/

    Do not do any thing illegal unless morality requires it.
  16. Feb 27, 2009 #15

    What you describe is certainly covered under fair use, read the laws for more information.


    Your use is
    1) for nonprofit educational purposes.

    The nature of the copyrighted work is
    2) academic

    The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole is
    3) Either substantial or nonsubstantial depending on whether the individual article or the whole journal issued is considered the copyright work.

    The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work is
    4) essentially zero.

    So you have 3 points going for you, possibly 1 point against you, and your actions are consistent with common practice in the academic community => any court would find that emailing the paper is NOT infringing.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2009
  17. Feb 27, 2009 #16
    bloody heck !!

    If i need a science lawyer i will be looking you up..
  18. Feb 28, 2009 #17
    Haha, I'm not a lawyer. I'm just a fair-use nut who gets annoyed whenever uninformed people go around speaking corporate propaganda about how all use must be authorized, when in fact the law says otherwise in many cases. By the way your words "bloody heck" sounds like somewhat of a british phrase, whereas what I said only applies in the US. So if you're british maybe check into it a bit more.
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