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.