I recently received a request from a journal editor (a friend) to remove a pdf of an article of mine published in that journal from my site on Academia.edu. I complied with the request. The following text is taken from my email to the editor:
I have complied with your request to remove the pdf of my recently published paper from my Academia.edu site. I approach this issue from two—often contradictory—perspectives: moral and legal. Morally, I am complying with your request under protest. In my mind, I own my scholarly publications. I did the research, I wrote the paper, and the products are my own. I resent the policies of journals that do not permit an author to post his or her publications on the internet. These policies restrict the distribution of scientific knowledge, thereby harming the advancement of scholarship and depriving the public of knowledge obtained often with public funding. As a result, such policies also harm my career, my reputation, and the advancement of my own scholarly trajectory.
From a legal standpoint, however, I often sign the author’s agreements that prevent just this type of posting of published papers. When I am challenged about posting a paper, I typically have little basis for complaint. I signed the form, and in our society bound by the rule of law, I have to comply with the law. While my moral sentiments are quite strong on the issue, they won’t hold up in a court of law. As a citizen and public employee I feel obliged to comply with the law on this and other issues.