ResearchGate still infringing copyright, publishers say

Battle between publishers and academic social network deadlocked

April 11, 2018
Gavel, scales of justice and law books
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ResearchGate is still hosting millions of copyright-infringing papers, according to a group of academic publishers trying to remove material from the site.

The academic social network boasts more than 14 million members and claims it hosts more than 100 million papers.

But publishers say many of these are being shared in violation of copyright – and last October started sending take-down notices to ResearchGate in order to get them removed.

An update released yesterday by the Coalition for Responsible Sharing – a group of 12 publishers including Elsevier, Wiley and the BMJ – claims that the Berlin-based company is still refusing to cooperate.

Despite taking down 1.4 million papers from the public domain last October, “around 4 million copyright infringing articles remain publicly available on the site and continue to grow by the day”, the publishers say. Last October’s take-down of papers was a “one-off action that will not be repeated”.

The publishers want papers to be vetted to see if they can be publicly shared before they are uploaded to ResearchGate. But instead, ResearchGate insists copyright owners send take-down notices only after infringement is spotted, according to the publishers.

“While publishers identify and verify these articles, content may get scraped and appear elsewhere, such as on pirate sites,” according to the publishers’ update. A spokeswoman for ResearchGate declined to comment.

Backed by venture capital funding, ResearchGate has said it hopes to make money through targeted advertising – of microscopes, for example – to academic users. But accounts for 2015 and 2016 show multi-million euro loses, according to Techcrunch. Its chief executive Ijad Madisch said in December 2017 that it was on track to break even, but could not say exactly when that would be, according to the outlet.

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Reader's comments (1)

"Public domain" is actually used incorrectly in this article: "Despite taking down 1.4 million papers from the public domain last October". It makes it sound like whatever is freely accessible on the Internet is "public domain", a very common mistake among people who know nothing about copyright. "Public domain" is when copyright has expired at the end of its term, which is the traditional definition. A more recent definition would also include when copyright owners waive their rights and place their work in the public domain from the start, using a Creative Commons designation such as CC0. The papers that the Coalition for Responsible Sharing wants to have removed, if they are infringing on copyright, were never in the public domain in the first place. So they cannot be "taken down from the public domain".