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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Reader Comments

The First Word

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: https://www.researchgate.net/application.IntellectualPropertyPolicy.html 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.

RG
—Anonymous Coward

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 7:43pm

    We would most appreciate it if you would kindly put this knife to your own throat so that we don't have to do it for you.

    Best regards,
    STM

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 25 Sep 2017 @ 8:03pm

    A cure

    Is there a cure for this desease and does it involve the public domain eluxir of life containing charcoal sulfer and potasium nitrate?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 8:23pm

    "I hereby give myself permission to upload myself's own research, as well as indemnify myself against any lawsuits by myself against myself."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 8:55pm

    ah... to not realize that you are just a slave.

    that which we have constructed to protect us, is being used to destroy us while we cheer it on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 9:28pm

    With so many ways to transfer data outside of normal channels, what is the point of this? Its as if avg. people just dont realize that the normal rules of life dont have to be followed on the internet no matter how much they want them to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scote, 25 Sep 2017 @ 10:37pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:27am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    firebird2110 (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:01am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DNY (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 7:12pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Trumpet, 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:19am

    Voluntary

    "STM Voluntary Principles"

    Thank you for unwittingly choosing to work with STM.
    Would you like the STM Voluntary Principles or the thumbscrews? The principles are entirely voluntary mind you; if you prefer, the thumbscrews are always on hand (as it were).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:50am

    If the EU wanted to support creative people (and scientists) ...

    they would outlaw the current publishers' practices of requiring a permanent transfer of all rights from the authors to the publishers.

    The EU should also clarify that copyright prevents only IDENTICAL copies of the articles, not modified versions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 3:42am

    And this is why...

    ...I have a VM that uses academic library credentials to slowly crawl journal repositories and upload papers to Sci-Hub 24x7.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 4:08am

    The Empire Strikes Back

    You didn't think the Publishing Empire was just going to roll over for ResearchRate, did you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 5:38am

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Terry Allen, 26 Sep 2017 @ 10:27am

      Re: DMCA is there for a reason...

      It's even worse than that. The universities usually want the work of their staff cited in other research. Same with the authors. Only the publishers want to restrict this.

      Seems to me that as long as the universities are paying, they should be steering the conversation, only they aren't. :-S

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 5:43am

    STM

    Shut The... Mup

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 6:44am

    To the takeaway is that papers should be published to ResearchGate first, and check to make sure they don't end up on predatory publishers without permission.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 7:32am

    Let them tighten their grip. Sci-hub is just one of the streams oozing out of their iron grip. The more they force it the faster they'll fall.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 8:12am

      Re:

      The impact rating obtainable by publishing in one of the "better" journals is slipping away anyway. Eventually they will change or die, or someone will come up with laws demanding that papers must be relinquished to the old journals.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 8:23am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 3:49am

      Re:

      As for peer review, they are really doing it for their peers, but yes, the journals do benefit. A problem of which you have reminded me, though, is aside from the problems in academia, the universities themselves are mostly controlled not by academia, but by corporate asshats.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 8:30am

    News and ResearchGate

    If I've learned anything from popular media, it's that anything that ends in *-Gate must be about a scandal. So what's the scandal with ResearchGate? :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 3:00pm

    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: https://www.researchgate.net/application.IntellectualPropertyPolicy.html 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.

    RG

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2017 @ 5:51am

    This is censorship. Plain and simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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