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Self-archiving (secondary publication)

Have you experienced this? You have published an article in a journal that is highly respected in your field, but the article is not open access but has been published behind a paywall (for example, because the journal does not offer open access options or because you were unable to finance open access). And you think to yourself: "Bummer. For this fantastic article, open access didn't work out!" However, this blanket assumption is incorrect. It is a common misconception that closed access and open access represent a crossroads and are incompatible. The solution is the so-called green route of open access – Green Open Access, for short – also known as secondary publication in German and as self-archiving in English (and therefore, the latter term is used hereinafter).

This route of open access thus makes it possible to create free access to a version of a publication that was originally not published open access. Hence, under certain conditions, open access is also possible for closed access publications. This approach has become established for journal articles in particular, but it is also sometimes possible for books (especially individual contributions in books). The publications are usually made accessible via so-called repositories, i.e. document servers with the purpose of making scientific publications available. Most academic institutions operate such repositories for their members, but there are also discipline-specific repositories that are available to academics from a particular academic subject area. There are never any costs for authors.

Below we explain the legal grounds on which self-archiving may be undertaken and what you need to bear in mind. You will also find five tips to make self-archiving easier in future.

Self-archiving – on what grounds?

In principle, an author of a publication is also the creator and therefore holds all rights to the publication. If the publication is published via a publisher or other publication service, the author transfers so-called use rights to them for the purpose of publication. With regard to the self-archiving of a publication, it is first and foremost relevant whether these use rights were granted in a non-exclusive or exclusive manner. If only non-exclusive use rights have been transferred, self-archiving is generally possible.

However, if exclusive use rights have been transferred – which is still the norm for closed access publications – self-archiving is not possible on principle. In this case, however, certain provisions and legal grounds for self-archiving can be considered. These can be grouped into the following three categories.

If exclusive use rights were transferred, this was usually done in a publishing contract. In this agreement, authors may also have been granted explicit permission for self-archiving. If this is the case, authors can apply this accordingly.

In addition, publishers often have policies for self-archiving in which they specify the requirements and conditions for this. Such policies are particularly common for journals. These policies often use the actual term self-archiving, but can also be found under terms such as repository policy, reuse policy or sharing policy, or as part of the publication guidelines for authors. A valuable tool is the Sherpa Romeo database, which aggregates and summarises the policies of many publishers and journals and provides links to the publishers' websites (where the policies should be double-checked as a precaution).

If there is neither permission in the publication contract nor a policy for self-archiving, a request to the publisher can be made. Such requests are quite promising, as the publishers in question are often quite pragmatic in granting individual authorisations for self-archiving. Sometimes publishers even provide the full text at the same time.

Academic institutions or their libraries usually negotiate detailed agreements with some publishers for access to their publications or for special conditions for open access publishing. Sometimes these agreements also include provisions on self-archiving that grant members of the institution special conditions for self-archiving, for example improved conditions with regard to the publication version that can be used or the embargo (see the explanations below). The agreements may even stipulate that the institution may carry out the self-archiving on behalf of the author. Simply ask your institution's library about such agreements.

The German Copyright Act (Urheberrechtsgesetz, UrhG) primarily provides for two regulations that allow authors to republish their publications under certain conditions and subject to certain requirements.

Insofar as no other agreements to the contrary have been made with a publisher (usually in a publication contract, see above), authors may reproduce, distribute and make publicly accessible their publications published in "periodical collections" (usually journals) elsewhere after one year (UrhG, section 38 (1)).

There is also the so-called secondary publication right (Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht), which since 1 January 2014 has allowed authors to make scientific contributions publicly accessible under certain conditions after twelve months have elapsed since the initial publication (UrhG, section 38(4)). The decisive factor is that it can also be applied if an exclusive use right was transferred for the initial publication – which is then ineffective for the purpose of secondary publication (self-archiving). However, the law defines specific conditions:

  1. The (secondary) publication must not serve a commercial purpose.
  2. The article must have been produced as part of a research activity at least half of which was publicly funded.
  3. The article must have appeared in a collection that is published periodically at least twice a year. The article may be made publicly accessible at the earliest twelve months after the initial publication (applies to the full text).
  4. Only the accepted manuscript version of the article may be made available.
  5. The publication details of the initial publication must be stated.

Self-archiving – under what conditions?

If self-archiving can only be carried out on the basis of one of the above-mentioned provisions and legal grounds, certain conditions must generally be observed. The following five conditions are common.

The version of the publication to be used for self-archiving is specified. A distinction is made between the originally submitted manuscript (preprint), the manuscript accepted for publication (postprint) and the version that is ultimately published, usually with final typesetting and final layout (version of record). The distinction is crucial because the other conditions are often specified according to the version that is to be self-archived and the conditions sometimes differ significantly depending on the version.

A time delay between the initial publication and the secondary publication (access to the full text) is required and specified.

A reference to the initial publication is required. Standard bibliographical references should be provided; some publishers also specify wordings.

Publication of the self-archived text under a specific licence is permitted or mandatory. In this case, Creative Commons licences are the standard.

The venue for the self-archiving is specified or restricted. The usual publication venues distinguished here are a personal website, a commercial repository, a non-commercial repository or an institutional repository. Publication via social networks for academics (such as ResearchGate or Academia.edu) may also be covered, although this is often explicitly prohibited.

Legal grounds and conditions to be observed for self-archiving, if exclusive use rights have been transferred

Legal grounds and conditions to be observed for self-archiving, if exclusive use rights have been transferred

Make it easy for yourself! – 5 tips for self-archiving

  1. If possible, only transfer non-exclusive use rights to publishers and other publication services, but not exclusive use rights. In this way, you ensure the possibility of self-archiving without even having to check whether it is permitted.
  2. Always store publishing contracts and manuscripts (including different versions) properly and with documentation on your computer to avoid having to search for information and the full text for a self-archiving.
  3. Publish your publications as preprints even prior to the eventual publication (in a journal or in an edited volume), for example on a dedicated preprint server. (However, check beforehand whether the journal you have chosen does not stipulate this as an exclusion criterion for accepting the publication).
  4. Make publishing preprints or subsequent self-archiving part of the writing, submission and publication process. Are you submitting an article to a journal? Take the relatively short time to also publish your manuscript as a preprint! Has your article been accepted for publication in a journal or edited volume? Why not self-archive it on a repository right away!
  5. Ask the library at your institution for support and help with self-archiving. Often there are consultation services and sometimes the library even does the job for you.

Choose a suitable repository for self-archiving

As a member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin or Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, you should preferably use the repository of the respective institution. You can find further explanations in our article on finding a suitable repository.

We will be happy to advise you on the subject of self-archiving and your publishing options!

The content of this page is based on the publication Open Access und wissenschaftliches Publizieren: Train-the-Trainer-Konzept (chapter 8).

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