ree access to the articles is becoming more popular since it gives thousands of researchers access to millions of publications resulting in higher visibility and receiving much more citations, which often times might be the ultimate goal. For this reason, authors may seek a way to make the papers easily accessible to other researchers via uploading the full text to their personal website and/or scientific social networks such as the ResearchGate, which is legally considered a personal website of the users (1). This looks simple and naïve, but on the other hand it seems to be in contrast to the policy of the subscription-based journals, which may violate the granted signed copyright to the publisher (2).
There are two concerns with letting others access the article for free:
1) A friend or a colleague may request the paper and the author is going to send the article via email.
2) The author uploads the full text on to a personal or scientific website available to every researcher.
Regarding the first issue, do not hesitate to do so. It is accepted ethically and legally to send a requested paper to a researcher who is asking for it. As far as there is no commercial advantage by having the paper, any scientific use is encouraged and permitted.
The second concern is currently a hot topic. On the bright side, providing free access to every paper might endanger the monetary benefits of the publishers. However, on the flip side of the coin, publishers are also gaining greater income, although indirect but significant via receiving more visibility and subsequent citations to the exposed papers. Having said that, to create a balance between the appeals for free access while avoiding the breach to the copyright system, publishers have come up with new policies in this regards, which is different from the Copyright without violating the subscription-based journals.
The publisher copyright policies for self-archiving is called SHERPA/RoMEO. Within this, the copyright agreement policies and the retained author rights are obviated. SHERPA established in the UK universities as the SHERPA project to support open access institutional repositories, which further grew and is now comprised of fairly all research institutions as the partners. SHERPA is involved in full or advisory partner of some projects including the SHERPA/RoMEO (3).
Self-archiving permissions vary between publishers and journals. Details about publisher and journal can be found onhttp://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/(4). For most of the journals and publishers, Resaerchgate pages are linked to the correct publisher condition and can be seen by clicking ‘show self-archiving restrictions’. Permission is classified using colors: green means you can generally upload a full-text, blue or yellow means you should check your individual article conditions, and white means self-archiving is generally not permitted.
It is the author’s responsibility to check for the RoMEO color and make sure he/she is not breaching the copyright conditions. However, do not forget that in case you are not permitted to post the full text to public, you are always allowed to send the article in a private message to another researcher or colleague.