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Copyright Policy V.1

Note : This version of the policy was superceded in November 1995. The previously published Author's Guide to ACM Interim Copyright Policies was based on this version. Please refer to the current version of the policy instead.


ACM is moving to shift its publication operation from paper-only journals and magazines to electronic distribution from a structured database. The first elements of the shift will be visible in spring 1995. This is being done to accommodate a shift in author and reader practices that are accompanying the emergence of world wide network services. ACM will provide print versions of publications as long as there is a market for them.

By the end of the decade, we envisage a world of scientific and technical publishing with three main characteristics. First, the entire technical literature of a field will be stored in a digital library, a network of databases offering new kinds of services such as browsing, searching, extracting, and repackaging; simple pricing schemes will be used to collect nominal fees from those who have not subscribed to the database services. Second, the definitive versions of works will be stored in servers maintained by copyright holders as a service to authors and readers. Third, active links will be a standard form of connection among works; they will serve both as citations and as automatic means of obtaining copies on demand.

What follows is a new declaration of ACM copyright policies that initiate a transition into this world. ACM's overall objectives with these policies are to enable authors to communicate with the widest possible audience, to act as author's agent in disseminating information, to protect author interests, to assure that all information distributed under the ACM name meets high standards for quality and reliability, and to assist readers in locating the materials most deserving of their valuable time. ACM will store and make accessible the definitive (reference) versions of all ACM works. ACM intends that its digital library services will be so reliable and convenient that all users of ACM works will prefer to link to the ACM versions rather than to any other versions.

These new policies preserve ACM's tradition of openness in the presence of new practices engendered by digital media. These policies repeatedly refer to four basic assumptions:

  • Transmitting an ACM copyright work through a computer network is a form of copying.
  • The recipient of an ACM copyright work is not free to copy it and pass it on without permission from ACM.
  • The definition of "publication" includes distribution by transmission from a database.
  • Links, although used for copy-on-demand, are a form of citation.

These new policies clarify the liberal conditions under which ACM grants prior permission for copying or distribution, and the conditions under which ACM requires prior permission and/or a fee. A glossary of the principal terms is included at the end.

This statement of policies is marked as "interim" because the Publications Board seeks to learn from experience how effective the various provisions are. The Board will conduct a complete review of these policies after one year and will revise these policies as needed to deal with new circumstances and to accommodate innovations. This document supersedes all previous statements of ACM copyright policies.

1. Copyright Notice

The ACM copyright notice must be displayed on the first page or initial screen of a display of all works copyright by ACM, whether those works are published in print or in a digital medium. It is acceptable to place the string "© Copyright 199x by ACM, Inc." as a hypertext link to the full copyright notice.

ACM Copyright Notice

Copyright © 199x by the Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or direct commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. Copyrights for components of this work owned by others than ACM must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers, or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. Request permissions from Publications Dept, ACM Inc., fax +1 (212) 869-0481, or (

2. Requirement for Copyright

Authors must assign copyright to ACM as a condition of publishing the work with ACM. This requirement may be waived for materials that have not been reviewed or refereed.

Immediately after the copyright transfer, authors should incorporate the ACM copyright notice into all copies they have. ACM will maintain the accepted version as the definitive (reference) version of the published work. Authors who maintain personal collections should implant a link to the definitive version maintained by ACM. Authors should only distribute links pointing to the ACM definitive version.

An author who embeds an object, such as an art image, copyrighted by a third party is expected to obtain that party's permission to include the object with the understanding that the entire work may be distributed as a unity to ACM members and to others. The copyright transfer applies only to the author's work as a whole but not to the third party's embedded object. This requirement does not apply if the author places a link to the copyright holder's definitive version.

3. Links

A link is a string that, when interpreted by an appropriate program, will access an object elsewhere in a network and fetch a copy of it to the local machine. Examples are hypertext links, URLs (universal resource locators on the World-Wide Web), and document handles. Under this definition, standard bibliographic citations can be links when processed by an appropriate intelligent agent.

ACM treats links as citations. Since copyright rules affect relationships between users and copyright-holders, those rules must be enforced at the time of link use, not at the time of link creation. ACM encourages the widespread distribution of links to the definitive versions of ACM copyrighted works and does not require that authors obtain prior permission to include such links in their new works.

If an author wishes to embed a copyrighted object rather than a link in a new work, that author needs to obtain the copyright holder's permission. At the location of the object in the new work, the author should place a notice, "Included here by permission, © by < holder>."

There is an exception to this rule. Someone who creates a work whose pattern of links substantially duplicates a copyrighted work should get prior permission from the copyright holder. For example, the creator of "A Table of Contents for the Current Issue of TODS" -- consisting of citations and active links to authors' personal copies of the articles in the latest issue of TODS -- needs ACM permission because that creator is reproducing an ACM copyrighted work. If all the links in the "Table of Contents" pointed to the ACM definitive versions, ACM would normally give permission because then the new work advertises an ACM work. To avoid misunderstandings, authors should consult with ACM before duplicating an ACM work with links.

Service providers do not need to obtain prior permission from ACM to locate and dispense links to the ACM definitive versions of works, but they do need permission if they are making, collecting, or distributing copies of ACM copyrighted works.

4. Distributions From non-ACM Servers

Individuals often distribute copies of works authored by themselves or by others. Distribution may consist of sending copies to a list, or of posting a copy on a server where it is accessible to others who might copy it. Electronic distributions and postings of ACM copyrighted works are acts of copying and may require ACM permission if sufficiently large.

ACM offers the following guideline to distributors of ACM copyrighted works. If the number of people who have public access to the distribution is less than 1% of the ACM membership (currently, 1% is about 800 people), the distribution may be made without prior permission. If the number is expected to be larger, the distributor should get permission from ACM and the copies should cite that permission.

If ACM copyrighted works are maintained and distributed from non-ACM servers, ACM requires the server prominently display a general notice alerting readers to their obligations under the copyright laws. A sample of an acceptable notice is shown in the accompanying box.


The documents contained in these directories are included by the contributing authors as a means to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work on a non-commercial basis. Copyright and all rights therein are maintained by the authors or by other copyright holders, notwithstanding that they have offered their works here electronically. It is understood that all persons copying this information will adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. These works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

5. Rights Retained by Authors

As part of a copyright transfer to ACM, the original copyright holder (author or author's employer) retains:

  • all other proprietary rights to the work such as patent,
  • the right to reuse any portion of the work, without fee, in future works of the author's own, provided that the ACM citation and notice of the ACM copyright are included, and
  • the right to post a personal copy on non-ACM servers for limited noncommercial distributions, provided that the ACM copyright notice (See 1.) is attached to the personal copy and that the server prominently displays a general policy notice about use of copyright works it contains (See 4.).
  • Organizations who originally owned copyright may distribute copies of works of their employees within the organization.

6. Solicited Works

From time to time, ACM solicits works for publication. Examples are columns, invited articles, award lectures, and keynote speeches. ACM asks that authors of such works do not circulate copies or post these works until ACM has published them. Authors who wish to circulate before publication should get permission from ACM. ACM considers lectures and speeches to be published at the time they are given.

7. Open Notice of Submission for Publication

An author who submits a work for consideration by an ACM editor should include this notice on any personal copies posted on servers:

This work has been submitted for publication. Copyright may be transferred without further notice and this version may no longer be accessible.

ACM and other publishers have a policy that authors submit a work for consideration for publication by only one editor at a time. Authors should notify editors if a work is identical or substantially the same as another work submitted for publication.

8. Republication

ACM maintains its policy of not republishing works, whether copyrighted by ACM or by others, except under limited conditions where an editor determines there is significant benefit in republication.

9. Fixity of Works

The electronic media provide means whereby readers can attach comments to an author's work and the author can respond. The ACM wishes to encourage this and intends eventually to support this as a service in the ACM digital library.

ACM subscribes to the general scientific convention that published works not be altered without review and approval by an editor. ACM also considers all reader and author comments formally attached to a work are part of the public discussion and should not be altered by their authors without approval by an editor. If the author or a reader wishes to withdraw a comment after posting, the withdrawn item will be annotated by a withdrawal notice.

10. Access Licenses

ACM will provide all ACM members in good standing with a license to access the ACM database and its basic services as part of the regular membership package.

ACM will offer licenses to others for access to ACM publications databases for purposes such as access, searching, extracting, or downloading. Licenses that allow print-on-demand may include a per-copy release fee.

Institutional members of ACM may obtain licenses to download items from ACM databases for internal redistribution upon demonstrating they have authentication services capable of limiting redistribution to their members.

ACM will also offer limited-time access licenses to nonmembers. Such licenses can be used as promotions for ACM membership as well as allowing someone an opportunity to use ACM published works for a limited time.

11. Production of Digitized Copies

Persons who have permission under these policies to make copies may elect to digitize a print copy and distribute the digitized copy. Persons using error-prone digitizing processes such as OCR (optical character recognition) must include a disclaimer with the ACM copyright notice on each copy:

Permission to convert printed copy to character text by OCR has been given by ACM. Since OCR may introduce errors, ACM does not guarantee this is an accurate copy of the author's original work.

12. Edited Collections

In most cases of conference proceedings, newsletters, and other edited collections, the collection as a whole and all its components will be copyrighted by ACM solely or jointly with other organizations. In some cases, notably newsletters, the collection will be copyrighted but copyrights of some components will be retained by authors.

No collection in which ACM is the sole or joint copyright holder may be posted for open distribution without prior permission from ACM. Notice of permission must accompany the ACM copyright notice. Free access may be granted to conference attendees and appropriate groups of ACM members provided an authentication mechanism is in place.

13. Electronic Publication Experiments

SIGs and other units of ACM are encouraged to conduct experiments in electronic publication and distribution provided that the experiments conform with all the policies stated here and prior notice and description are given to the ACM Director of Publications. Quarterly progress reports should be sent to the ACM Director of Publications for the duration of the experiment.

14. Permissions

ACM publications staff will monitor ( requests for permissions and releases under this policy.

15. Interpretation of Coverage

ACM has a long-standing policy that the copyright transfer statement grants ACM the right "to publish the work in whole or in part in any and all media." ACM has always interpreted this policy to include digital media, digitized copies of previous print versions, performance and display by reading, and digital transmission of files containing the copyright works. ACM hereby reaffirms this interpretation.

16. Interim Permission to Maintain Definitive Works

Until the ACM database is operational, authors are granted permission to maintain the ACM definitive version, for which they have transferred copyright to ACM, on a non-ACM server.


Some of the words in this policy have specific meanings in ACM's domain. The meanings intended herein are recorded follows:

Work: A document, file, manuscript, or other information object, in hard-copy or digital form, that is an expression by an author protected under copyright law.

Definitive version of work: the version that has been accepted by an editor after review, which may have been professionally edited, and which contains the full citation and ACM copyright notice. This version will be protected from alteration.

Edited: a collection of works have been selected by an editor and possibly edited for style and length.

Reviewed: one or more experts have examined the work and have given assessments to an editor about clarity, soundness, novelty, prior publication, proper citations, and other criteria.

Formally reviewed: A thorough review with emphasis on clarity, accessibility to the general reader, and timeliness. Persons serving as formal reviewers are independent of the editors who request their advice.

Refereed: A thorough review with emphasis on novelty and soundness. A journal refereeing process seeks to advise the editor whether to reject or provide specific guidance for revisions. A conference refereeing process seeks to advise the editor whether to accept or reject; a strict deadline is enforced. Persons serving as referees are independent of the editors who request their advice.

Journal, Transactions: generic names given to ACM refereed periodical publications.

Communications, Surveys, interactions, StandardView: four ACM formally reviewed periodical publications.

Proceedings: the reviewed or refereed record of a conference.

Newsletters, Bulletins: edited and/or reviewed periodic publications that inform members of groups about relevant news.

Link: A character string that denotes a work stored at a remote location in a network; the link is associated with a protocol for retrieving a copy of the item denoted by the character string. Invoking or exercising a link means to call a function in the protocol that fetches a copy of the work into the local computer.

Server: a computer in a network that stores files and databases of works and provides means to access and copy those works to other computers.

ACM database or digital library: the entire collection of ACM copyright works and associated services. It may be stored on one or more machines.

Copyright 1995 © by ACM, Inc. Permission to copy and distribute this document is hereby granted provided that this notice is retained on all copies and that copies are not altered.