Publishing giants Elsevier and American Chemical Society have filed a lawsuit against ResearchGate for unlicensed paper sharing. Several scientific publishers had urged Researchgate to modify its content-sharing policy, but did not get a favorable response, leading to this legal action. Read on for a detailed account of the issue.
Publishing giants Elsevier and American Chemical Society (ACS) have filed a lawsuit against ResearchGate, a popular for-profit academic networking site for unlicensed paper sharing. ResearchGate has around 100 million publications of which more than 7 million copyrighted articles have been made available without appropriate permissions. Several scientific publishers had urged ResearchGate to modify its content-sharing policy, but did not get a favorable response. As a result, Eslevier and ACS decided to take a legal action.
The paper-sharing practices of ResearchGate have generated concern among publishers since these practices work against their subscription policies. Therefore, in September, on behalf of 140 scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishers, the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers communicated to the networking site. ResearchGate was asked to consider addressing the problem of “noncompliant content on its site in the interest of a sustainable science communication ecosystem and in respect of content for which ResearchGate is potentially liable.” The group proposed to ResearchGate an agreement that would amount to an automated system checking any article being uploaded on the site for its copyright. ResearchGate was asked to respond to it within a specific timeframe, failing which, the publishers would contact ResearchGate individually or collectively.
When the site failed to respond, five publishers – ACS, Elsevier, Brill, Wiley, and Wolters Kluwer – formed a group called Coalition for Responsible Sharing to take formal steps against ResearchGate. The coalition mentions that the publishers were “left with no other choice but to take formal steps to remedy the illicit dissemination of millions of published articles on the ResearchGate site.” Of the coalition’s members, Elsevier and ACS filed a lawsuit in Germany against the site. Sharing one of the primary reasons behind the legal action, James Milne, ACS’s Senior Vice-President for publishing, said: “We cannot allow ResearchGate to commercialize that [copyrighted] material without contributing to the creation enterprise.”
In response, ResearchGate has removed several of the copyrighted papers from its site. Academic social networking platforms have been under publishers’ scrutiny for a while. In 2013, Academia.edu had been sent several notices by Elsevier for freely sharing subscription-only papers. However, no legal action was involved.
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