Is preprint illegal? Copyright mechanism of journals and preprint.

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If you are new to academic world you might be surprised to hear this: when you publish your work in reputable journals you essentially lose copyright to your paper. What do we mean by this is that you would not be able freely share your research and your findings. People who pay for the specific journal has legal right to access your content. We expect that academic world consists of most rational people of the world, but reality is bitter. We believe this is unfair to researchers who achieved results through hard work and cannot get their findings to the maximum audience. This blog will look into the difference between copyright policies of preprints and journals.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property that covers some categories of original creative content, including scholarly works. Copyright helps the author of a work to determine when and under what circumstances their work can be used, written and circulated by others. As such, it regulates how others can use, publish and distribute papers. Having an understanding for copyrights for your papers is essential in academic world. Copyright does not survive forever. The precise length of copyright depends on the form of work and also varies from country to country. However, in the case of scholarly essay, the length is typically the life of the author plus 70 years.

In order to publish an article and make it available to peer-reviewed journal, journals require your publication rights for your work. Journals therefore require the writers who write to sign an author’s contract to give us the required publishing rights. This usually happens after the manuscript has gone through the peer review process, has been approved and goes into last stage.

On the contrary, almost all preprints are posted under open access Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license. Which means that the research can be freely downloaded, circulated and reused, provided that the author and the preprint are referenced in any re-use. This allows optimum recognition of the work while acknowledging the contributors. This represents an incentive for the academic community to accelerate the development in ways that traditional publishers do not currently deliver to researchers. Such an offer will certainly create additional ways for the author’s writing to be used and referenced.

You might think that posting preprints before publishing it in a journal could lead to your idea or findings to be “stolen” by different person. This is hundred percent a misconception. In fact, the opposite is true. Preprints show the record of priority. Preprints contain an unalterable time stamp of article, generally within 24 hours of submission. This date, along with the preprint itself, is made open, and hence anybody (using any internet search engine) can decide the order of priority in relation to other published works or, indeed, other preprints. One of the initial reasons for developing preprints was to create a clear public record of the work of a scientist. On the other hand, while journals offer a confirmation service by peer review, priority setting can be substantially delayed since work is not public during the peer review period of most journals. Since preprints can encompass beyond conventional published articles, they also set the order of priority for these research works.

Some journals deem preprints to be a “prior form of publication” and refuse those manuscripts on the grounds that they have been submitted to a preprint server. Today, journals that have considers to relaxing of such rules or to the fact that preprints are not deemed to be prior publication. In any case, more life science publications have been establishing preprint-friendly policies in recent months. We expect this development to continue as publishers evolve to understand the importance of preprints and how audience feedback will help writers develop their work and papers, leading to improved publishing of research. Preprint is pushing for open-access and it is the future.

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Written by Wanonno Iqtyider