Bill Gates And Other Major Investors Put $52.6 Million Into Site Sharing Unauthorized Copies Of Academic Papers

from the so-how-is-that-different-from-sci-hub? dept

As we’ve noted, the main reason the Sci-Hub site is so popular with academics is not because it is free — researchers generally have free access to papers anyway — but because it is so easy to use. Among other things, it provides a centralized store of a huge number of papers — 58 million at the time of writing — that can be downloaded with a single click. But an interesting post on the Green Tea and Velociraptors blog points out Sci-Hub’s holdings are beaten by the total number of papers available on the ResearchGate site, which has 12 million members:

The platform boasts that 2.5 million published outputs are uploaded by its users every month, equivalent to around the total number of published scholarly research articles each year. The site claims to have around 100 million published articles, which is very impressive seeing as only around 20-25 million have ever been published Open Access [OA].

The same post points out that many of those 100 million articles seem to be unauthorized copies:

Based on a random sample of English language articles drawn from ResearchGate, the study [published last month] showed that 201 (51.3%) out of 392 non-OA articles infringed the copyright and were non-compliant with publishers’ policy. While this sample size was small, there is no reason to think that the same cannot be said if we scale up to consider the entire corpus of articles shared on RG. This means that around half, or approximately 50 million, research papers on RG are most likely illegally hosted.

If that analysis is correct, it would seem that ResearchGate holds roughly as many unauthorized copies of academic papers as Sci-Hub. Despite that fact, ResearchGate has just revealed that back in November 2015, it received investments totalling $52.6 million from some rather starry names, including that famous hater of pirates, Bill Gates:

Wellcome Trust, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, and Four Rivers Group with participation from Ashton Kutcher, Groupe Arnault, Xavier Niel, and existing investors Bill Gates, Tenaya Capital, Benchmark, and Founders Fund.

ResearchGate says it is the responsibility of the uploader to make sure that they have the necessary rights to post material to the site:

As we do not have any information about rights you may hold, or any license terms or other restrictions which might apply to such content, we necessarily rely on you to understand your rights and act accordingly. For this reason, we request that you fully investigate and confirm that you have sufficient rights to post particular content to ResearchGate before you post such content. As a general matter, if you are an author publishing in a journal, you may be allowed to publish certain versions of your article, but not others, and privately share certain content with others. However, many journals restrict publication of final versions and impose limitations on private sharing.

As that notes, authors are typically only allowed to post certain versions of their papers — usually early ones. But most researchers don’t bother with that detail, and simply upload the final version to ResearchGate, which is probably why the recent analysis mentioned by the Tea and Velociraptors blog found so many unauthorized copies. Along with laziness, or ignorance of the niceties here, another factor driving this phenomenon may be that academics are aware that much of their work has been paid for by the public, and therefore feel the definitive results should be disseminated as widely as possible.

Still, the contrast between ResearchGate, which has received major investments from some rather big names, and Sci-Hub, which is currently being pursued in the courts by Elsevier, is stark, given that their respective holdings turn out to be so similar. It’s another indication that the academic publishing system is broken, and that copyright is an irrelevance as far as millions of researchers are concerned.

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Comments on “Bill Gates And Other Major Investors Put $52.6 Million Into Site Sharing Unauthorized Copies Of Academic Papers”

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20 Comments
Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

I freaking love this idea! Elsevier needs to be taken right out of the Academic Research Paper extortion business.

Elsevier’s model to stifle and sue any entity that threatens their pay for access model to research papers defeats the whole principal and model behind most research in that it is to be shared so others can learn from it and or build on it.

Not every Educational institution has the financial means to pay the exorbitant amounts that Elsevier demands for access to academic papers under its control, that is even more egregious when you have taxpayer funded educational institutions who are constricted in some of their curriculum offerings because they simply cant afford to pay the prices Elsevier demands for access to the vast areas of academic research papers its holds.

I think that this is a fantastic idea to help combat the Elsevier’s of the world, academic research papers should be there for all to review and learn and build on.

I hope this take off and does well, this is people putting their money out there not for profit but for a good cause and it;s one well worth it in my opinion.

Anonymous Coward says:

the irony

a man with money made from copyright making a pseudo attempt to subvert it.

Whatever, if Bill was serious he would be starting a lobby! Till then… this is just more dogs and ponies in a show purchasing the adoration of a bunch of sycophants.

So uh, yea… go head guys… but don’t throw your necks out.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: the irony

Yeah, that’s what this article was about: Fawning over Bill Gates. @@

Also, I am so sure this is why he donates funding to ResearchGate. He just knew there were infringing works there and wanted to get on some bandwagon or other to seem hip and relevant and pretend to “subvert copyright”.

On another note, he never would have been in a position to make a lot of money off of things that also happen to be copyrighted if he had not been busy digging through other people’s code and straight up violating copyright himself. So, whatever on that front. That’s just how the players play.

So maybe you should take your dog and pony show elsewhere, eh? Another clown with oh-so trenchant observations everyone else is just too blind or deep in denial to see. It is to laugh.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: the irony

“So maybe you should take your dog and pony show elsewhere, eh? Another clown with oh-so trenchant observations everyone else is just too blind or deep in denial to see. It is to laugh.”

Wait, TD can point this out in the article but an AC cannot comment on it in the comments section and take a stab at the sycophants? Something tells you were offended by that. How is your neck feelin bro? A little sore?

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: the irony

a man with money made from copyright

That’s nothing. Actually, Bill Gates is a man who also made copyright from money! Really. Several nations were made to change their copyrights in the 80ies, on account of the US software producers lobbying.

So for instance here in Switzerland, we’ve got the "software exemptions" in copyright. It goes like this: (rights on loans) 13.4 this does not apply to computer programs. (private copies) 19.4 this does not apply to computer programs. And so on. Of course. it’s the rights of the people which software is exempt of.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s different from Sci-Hub because My_Name_Here doesn’t like it when grubby, public plebeians do it compared to big, respectable corporations.

But now that it’s known that Bill Gates is behind this he might start to change his tune. Because Microsoft and Google are the Antichrist, don’t you know…

Anonymous Coward says:

Funny thing is, isn’t this what kid dot com is claimed to have been guilty for doing? Hosting copyrighted material for site members to access? Didn’t that result in his home being raided and having to fight extradition against the full weight of the US gov’t?

Not saying he is innocent or guilty but it sure seems to be a fairly similar situation and “excuse”, it the uploaders responsibility, not ours to prove rights and ownership.

Academia needs to get the RIAA lobby in its corner and put the “criminals” mentioned in the article in jail for hosting material that is illegally uploaded.

Am I in the same ballpark of the “crime” being committed? Or just jaded?

Anonymous Coward says:

The funny thing is

that it is easier to get an article/paper from SciHub than it is to get it from ReasearchGate. This is especially so when one wants to remain as an Anonymous Coward.

I have been after a specific paper since late last year after it was mentioned to me by someone who was a friend of the author. I have been able to access to read a copy from SciHub directly, whereas ResearchGate required an account to be created (unless one is not a researcher/student/academic/works professionally in the required field) or one was to submit an email address for someone to get back to you at some later time.

So irrespective of how many articles/papers/etc ReasearchGate has, it is still not as effective as SciHub.

All I can say is Go Girl.

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