Scientific Publishers Want Upload Filter To Stop Academics Sharing Their Own Papers Without Permission

from the where-there's-a-gate,-there's-got-to-be-a-gatekeeper dept

Back in March of this year, Techdirt wrote about ResearchGate, a site that allows its members to upload and share academic papers. Although the site says it is the responsibility of the uploaders to make sure that they have the necessary rights to post and share material, it’s clear that millions of articles on ResearchGate are unauthorized copies according to the restrictive agreements that publishers typically impose on their authors. As we wrote back then, it was interesting that academic publishers were fine with that, but not with Sci-Hub posting and sharing more or less the same number of unauthorized papers.

Somewhat belatedly, the International Association of Scientific Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) has now announced that it is not fine with authors sharing copies of their own papers on ResearchGate without asking permission. In a letter to the site from its lawyers (pdf), the STM is proposing what it calls “a sustainable way to grow and to continue the important role you play in the research ecosystem”. Here’s what it wants ResearchGate (“RG”) to do:

RG’s users could continue “claiming?, i.e. agreeing to make public or uploading documents in the way they may have become accustomed to with RG’s site. An automated system, utilizing existing technologies and ready to be implemented by STM members, would indicate if the version of the article could be shared publicly or privately. If publicly, then the content could be posted widely. If privately, then the article would remain available only to the co-authors or other private research groups consistent with the STM Voluntary Principles. In addition, a message could be sent to the author showing how to obtain rights to post the article more widely. This system could be implemented within 30-60 days and could then handle this “processing” well within 24 hours.

In other words, an upload filter, of exactly the kind proposed by the European Commission in its new Copyright Directive. There appears to be a concerted push by the copyright industry to bring in upload filters where it can, either through legislation, as in the EU, or through “voluntary” agreements, as with ResearchGate. Although the lawyer’s letter is couched in the politest terms, it leaves no doubt that if ResearchGate refuses to implement STM’s helpful suggestion, things might become less pleasant. It concludes:

On behalf of STM, I urge you therefore to consider this proposal. If you fail to accede to this proposal by 22 September 2017, then STM will be leaving the path open for its individual members to follow up with you separately, whether individually or in groups sharing a similar interest and approach, as they may see fit.

What this latest move shows is that publishers aren’t prepared to allow academics to share even their own papers without permission. It underlines that, along with fat profits, what the industry is most concerned about in this struggle is control. Academic publishers will graciously allow ResearchGate to exist, but only if they are recognized unequivocally as the gatekeeper.

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Companies: researchgate, sci-hub

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Comments on “Scientific Publishers Want Upload Filter To Stop Academics Sharing Their Own Papers Without Permission”

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Scote (profile) says:

Journals don't even pay authors for their studies :-0

The journals claiming ownership of these studies generally don’t pay a single dime for the studies, and in many cases, **charge** to publish them – this, after authors have spent large amounts of time and money actually doing the studies. So the journals have a lot of nerve saying that study authors can’t upload their own the write ups of experiments they performed and were never paid for by the journals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Journals don't even pay authors for their studies :-0

It is not even the journal staff complaining, as they are other academics, but the companies that own the name of the journals. Academic publishing has largely become a a case of making a lot of money for doing no more that putting the papers on a server controlled by the publishers.

firebird2110 (profile) says:

Where’s the person or group that’s going to step in and put a stop to this racket? Start up a science journal that does NOT demand that authors hand over copyright so they can be published. Once there’s one there will be more. It’s not like the old days when journals had to be physically printed out and mailed to subscribers. Sure you still need to organise the peer reviews etc. but that’s not all that taxing.

DNY (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My discipline in mathematics, category theory, has already done it. Our preeminent peer-reviewed journal is Theory and Applications of Categories. Authors retain copyright to their own papers but grant permission to the journal to offer the papers in perpetuity on the web and maintain print archival copies in several locations. The infrastructure is provided by Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. Just like commercially published journals, academicians donate the editorial services and refereeing, and mirable dictu no one is collecting monopoly rents on the donated labor of academician.

The problem is each discipline has to step up and create peer reviewed journal run entirely by academicians in the field who aren’t venial and out to collect monopoly rents for themselves.

aerinai says:

DMCA is there for a reason...

The irony is not lost on me at this suggesting this here… but… how about these STM using the mechanism that is already in place if they care so much? See an article you own and don’t want on the site? Request a take down. Use the tools that are already on the books instead of whining and threatening nuisance lawsuits.

But we all know that they won’t do it because they know they would lose the PR backlash that would ensue and do more damage if it is picked up by the mainstream press. I don’t think they could spin this to a positive if they tried:

STM: You can’t publish your paper on ResearchGate
Scientist: But I wrote it.
STM: But I own it.

Public backlash in 3…2…1…

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

This sort of thing will continue until academia puts a stop to it.

  • Universities will have to find something other than "published in recognized journal" as credentials for hiring.
  • Researchers will have to stop accepting a transfer of copyright as part of the publishing deal.
  • Researchers will have to stop providing free peer review services to for-profit publishing houses.
Anonymous Coward says:

A Proposed Letter

Dear STM,

It was very thoughtful of you to build such a software system for us. Had you contacted us beforehand we would have been able to save you the wasted effort. Since such an automated system can be abused to silence constitutionally protected speech including if not specifically speech that is critical of STM or any of its members, as such we cannot rationalize giving out veto powers.

The services we provide are very much like a bulletin board for scientists and researchers. We do not want or condone our platform being used for illegal activity. Being somewhat familiar with our own business, we already have existing measures in place. Your advice in our business affairs and procedures may come of as a bit arrogant, condescending and dictatorial but is nonetheless cute.

The afore-mentioned existing procedures are as follows. If you are aware of our services being used for a seriously criminal purpose, please contact the proper authorities so that we may assist them in a thorough investigation and locating the guilty party. If, as your letter indicates your primary concern is someone using our services for copyright infringement, guess what we already have procedures in place for that too. If it is your own intellectual property being infringed please file a DMCA take down request as outlined here: If it is a member’s intellectual property please refer them to said procedures or to us and we can point them there. Have a nice day.


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