Most medical journals are now published in electronic as well as print versions, and some are published only in electronic form. Principles of print and electronic publishing are identical, and the recommendations of this document apply equally to both. However, electronic publishing provides opportunities for versioning and raises issues about link stability and content preservation that are addressed here.
Recommendations for corrections and versioning are detailed in Section III.A.
Electronic publishing allows linking to sites and resources beyond journals over which journal editors have no editorial control. For this reason, and because links to external sites could be perceived as implying endorsement of those sites, journals should be cautious about external linking. When a journal does link to an external site, it should state that it does not endorse or take responsibility or liability for any content, advertising, products, or other materials on the linked sites, and does not take responsibility for the sites' availability.
Permanent preservation of journal articles on a journal's website, or in an independent archive or a credible repository is essential for the historical record. Removing an article from a journal's website in its entirety is almost never justified as copies of the article may have been downloaded even if its online posting was brief. Such archives should be freely accessible or accessible to archive members. Deposition in multiple archives is encouraged. However, if necessary for legal reasons (e.g., libel action), the URL for the removed article must contain a detailed reason for the removal, and the article must be retained in the journal's internal archive.
Permanent preservation of a journal's total content is the responsibility of the journal publisher, who in the event of journal termination should be certain the journal files are transferred to a responsible third party who can make the content available.
Journal websites should post the date that nonarticle web pages, such as those listing journal staff, editorial board members, and instructions for authors, were last updated.