How to comply with copyright when sharing research with colleagues

by Kristy Hancock on 2021-03-29T08:30:00-03:00 in Copyright, Engage Others, Research | 0 Comments

When you want to share a journal article or book chapter with a colleague, it may be tempting to simply email them the PDF, or even print the article or chapter and give them a hard copy. Maybe you are part of a journal club, committee, or research team, and you want to circulate an article to everyone in the group. Copyright law dictates how the full text of published content such as journal articles and book chapters can be shared.

Navigating and understanding copyright can be challenging. Each journal or publisher may have different rules around what users are and are not allowed to do with published content. There are, however, some simple best practices for safely sharing journal articles and book chapters with others.

What to avoid

Copyright permissions can differ from publisher to publisher, but it is typically against copyright law to distribute copies of journal articles or book chapters. This includes:

 Emailing a PDF to other people

 Printing and sharing a hard copy with other people

 Posting a PDF to a website

Sharing published research safely

Instead of distributing the full text of a journal article or book chapter, share the link! This is the safest way to share published research with colleagues. The way that you share the link will depend on where you find the content.

If you are searching the open web (e.g. Google), or a journal or publisher’s website:

 Copy and paste the browser URL into an email.

If you are searching in a database (e.g. PubMed, ClinicalKey®, CINAHL®, etc.):

 Copy and paste the article permalink (“permanent” link), if available, into an email.

 Use the database email function, if available, to send an email from within the database.

Another safe bet is to simply give your colleague the article citation (e.g. title, author, publication date, journal source, etc.) so that they can search for the full text of the item themselves or enlist the help of a librarian.

Best practices for sharing research apply to published content, whether it is available online for free (e.g. open access) or accessible only with a Nova Scotia Health username and password. Best practices also apply whether you are sharing the research with a Nova Scotia Health colleague or with a colleague from an external institution, like Dalhousie University. Keep in mind that if you are working with colleagues from outside of Nova Scotia Health, they may not have access to the same library resources and full text content that you do, and vice versa.

Using the email function and permalinks in PubMed and ClinicalKey®

Email function (A) and permalink button (B) in PubMed:


Email function (C) in ClinicalKey®:


It is worth the extra steps

You may be thinking, “The best practices seem like a hassle… are they really necessary?” The answer is, Yes! While it might take an extra moment or two to look for a permalink, find the database email function, or copy the citation, by following these best practices for sharing journal articles and book chapters, you show professionalism and are doing your due diligence to comply with copyright regulations.

For more guidance with navigating copyright and sharing published content safely with colleagues, reach out to Library Services at AskLibrary@nshealth.ca.

Kristy Hancock

Librarian Educator

 Add a Comment



Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.


  Return to Blog
This post is closed for further discussion.