Elsevier recently sent DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices to some UC campuses, claiming that the availability of certain Elsevier journal articles posted on university websites infringes Elsevier copyrights.

UC faculty might be wondering, what does this mean for me?  Am I at risk of receiving a takedown notice and, if so, what should I do?

  • At this point, the takedown action only applies to local campus web pages like department sites, faculty profiles, or lab pages. This action does not currently apply to any content you may have posted to UC’s eScholarship Repository.  Read a recent article in the Washington Post on Elsevier’s takedown notice campaign. Elsevier has also been in the news for similar notices sent to academia.edu, a for-profit article sharing site.
  • If you have not been notified by someone on your campus (e.g., a campus DMCA agent, someone in IT, etc.), your site is not currently the target of a takedown notice.

Additional information:

 What right does Elsevier have to tell faculty they can’t post their own work?

If you published with an Elsevier journal, you probably signed a copyright agreement. If you did, Elsevier is exercising the legal right you gave them to control access to your article.

I can’t find the agreement I signed with Elsevier. What did it say?

It may vary a little depending on the journal, but the agreement probably transferred copyright ownership to the publisher, and had a list of things you could still do with the article. Posting the published version on a website where anyone can read it was probably not allowed. You can request a copy from the publisher or your editor if you unable to locate your copy.

I thought self archiving was fine. Don’t we have an open access policy now?

UC’s Open Access Policy, adopted July 24, 2013, enables faculty to self-archive their articles published after this date.  Articles published before this date can often be self-archived depending on the rules of the journal. However, it is important that authors self-archive the “author’s final version” rather than the “published version” of their article (see below). These published versions are being targeted by the takedown notices.

How do I protect myself from takedown notices?

You have a few options. If you’d like additional information any of these approaches, there are people you can contact for help.

  • Post the correct version of your article.  Usually the author’s final version – after peer review but before the publisher formats it in the journal layout – is allowed for self-archiving, and this is the version the open access policy supports.  Relatively few publishers allow authors to post the published version of their article.
  • UC faculty adopted an Open Access Policy on July 24, 2013. If you’re dealing with an article published after the policy passed – and if your journal does not ask you for a waiver or embargo – you are expected to post your article in UC’s eScholarship Repository and can make it available anywhere else you like. Make sure to use the author’s final version (see above).
  • For articles not covered by the policy, read what you signed. You can also check the journal’s policy page, or the SHERPA/RoMEO database of journal policies. Often you can post the author’s final version, but you may need to wait until a year or two after publication.
  • Compare the policies of different journals in your field. If you have multiple publishing options, opt for the ones that give you more control over your work, and not those that are going to send legal notices to your university. The University of California will keep this page updated with information about publishers that have agreed to respect authors’ rights, and how publishers are responding to the UC Open Access Policy.

What if my article was taken down but I don’t think I signed a copyright agreement transferring rights to my publisher?

If you have a good faith belief that you never signed an agreement transferring copyright to Elsevier, you can send a DMCA counter-notice asserting your right to post your article.  Contact the campus DMCA agent who alerted you to the takedown notice, or e-mail UC’s Office of Scholarly Communication at osc@ucop.edu, for more information on this option.

Where does this takedown process come from?

It’s part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. If you really want to read more, the takedown notice and counter notice parts are in Section 512 of the Copyright Act, which is pretty dense. There’s also a UC guideline on the DMCA [later note to readers: link is broken; this guideline has apparently been rescinded] that’s a little more readable, and a pretty thorough explanation of Section 512 on Wikipedia.

Will Elsevier continue to issue these takedown notices?

It is hard to say. Elsevier has posted its perspective on these takedown efforts, and has a space for comments on that post. If you object to Elsevier’s actions, you can certainly contact the publisher there or through other channels to let them know.


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