New 'Coalition For Responsible Sharing' About To Send Millions Of Take-Down Notices To Stop Researchers Sharing Their Own Papers

from the how-responsible-is-that? dept

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about a proposal from the International Association of Scientific Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) to introduce upload filtering on the ResearchGate site in order to stop authors from sharing their own papers without "permission". In its letter to ResearchGate, STM's proposal concluded with a thinly-veiled threat to call in the lawyers if the site refused to implement the upload filters. In the absence of ResearchGate's acquiescence, a newly-formed "Coalition for Responsible Sharing", whose members include the American Chemical Society (ACS), Brill, Elsevier, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer, has issued a statement confirming the move:

Following unsuccessful attempts to jointly find ways for scholarly collaboration network ResearchGate to run its service in a copyright-compliant way, a coalition of information analytics businesses, publishers and societies is now left with no other choice but to take formal steps to remedy the illicit hosting of millions of subscription articles on the ResearchGate site.

Those formal steps include sending "millions of takedown notices for unauthorized content on its site now and in the future." Two Coalition publishers, ACS and Elsevier, have also filed a lawsuit in a German regional court, asking for “clarity and judgement” on the legality of ResearchGate's activities. Justifying these actions, the Coalition's statement says: "ResearchGate acquires volumes of articles each month in violation of agreements between journals and authors" -- and that, in a nutshell, is the problem.

The articles posted on ResearchGate are generally uploaded by the authors; they want them there so that their peers can read them. They also welcome the seamless access to other articles written by their fellow researchers. In other words, academic authors are perfectly happy with ResearchGate and how it uses the papers that they write, because it helps them work better as researchers. A recent post on The Scholarly Kitchen blog noted:

Researchers particularly appreciate ResearchGate because they can easily follow who cites their articles, and they can follow references to find other articles they may find of interest. Researchers do not stop to think about copyright concerns and in fact, the platform encourages them, frequently, to upload their published papers.

The problem lies in the unfair and one-sided contracts academic authors sign with publishers, which often do not allow them to share their own published papers freely. The issues with ResearchGate would disappear if researchers stopped agreeing to these completely unnecessary restrictions -- and if publishers stopped demanding them.

The Coalition for Responsible Sharing's statement makes another significant comment about ResearchGate: that it acquires all these articles "without making any contribution to the production or publication of the intellectual work it hosts." But much the same could be said about publishers, which take papers written by publicly-funded academics for free, chosen by academics for free, and reviewed by academics for free, and then add some editorial polish at the end. Despite their minimal contributions, publishers -- and publishers alone -- enjoy the profits that result. The extremely high margins offer incontrovertible proof that ResearchGate and similar scholarly collaboration networks are not a problem for anybody. The growing popularity and importance of unedited preprints confirms that what publishers add is dispensable. That makes the Coalition for Responsible Sharing's criticism of ResearchGate and its business model deeply hypocritical.

It is also foolish. By sending millions of take-down notices to ResearchGate -- and thus making it harder for researchers to share their own papers on a site they currently find useful -- the Coalition for Responsible Sharing will inevitably push people to use other alternatives, notably Sci-Hub. Unlike ResearchGate, which largely offers articles uploaded by their own authors, Sci-Hub generally sources its papers without the permission of the academics. So, once more, the clumsy actions of publishers desperate to assert control at all costs make it more likely that unauthorized copies will be downloaded and shared, not less. How responsible is that?

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  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 11 Oct 2017 @ 8:08pm

    "Coalition for the draconian, profit-driven restriction of sharing" didn't have the same ring to it...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 8:44pm

    violation of agreements between journals and authors

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 8:58pm

      Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

      Dang. Premature entry. Some key combination that I don't even know and never hit by intent sent that!

      Anyhoo, IF there is such agreement -- a contract -- then the authors don't have any valid objection. Period.

      By your own text these publishers are doing some work; you wrote: "and then add some editorial polish at the end." -- You clearly need some "editorial polish" to not write so stupidly as to in same sentence invalidate your own assertions.

      -- And then I was blocked! Trying again.

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

      • icon
        Gorshkov (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 9:10pm

        Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

        By your own text these publishers are doing some work; you wrote: "and then add some editorial polish at the end." -- You clearly need some "editorial polish" to not write so stupidly as to in same sentence invalidate your own assertions.

        Because some guy at the carwash polishes my car after it's been cleaned does NOT mean he should get paid for having made the car in the first place.

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

        • identicon
          David, 12 Oct 2017 @ 2:35am

          Re: Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

          No, but if you sign a waiver to the exclusive rights of the car's polished exterior, you can't just go on to publish photographs of you with your car on Facebook.

          The outrageous thing here is not that the publications insist on their contracts to be honored. The outrageous thing is that the contracts are what they are in the first place, and that the authors don't say "sorry, no deal then".

          You don't get to sign a pact with the devil and then get to act surprised that you aren't in possession of your soul any more.

          Large corporation's lawyers will put everything in contracts that they can get away with: that's what they are being paid for. And as long as an author does not say "no, you can't get this from me" this will only get worse.

          I sent back music scores with conditions I could not agree to (only perform with mention of the edition, and not be allowed to deviate from the score? For a work by Johann fucking Sebastian Bach? Are you bullshitting me? Well, yes, but I am not going to pay for it).

          This "nobody would write bad things in a contract I am sure" rationale led us there. It's what makes record companies tick. It's what has led to current EULAs.

          As long as people don't say "no, not under those conditions", this madness will go on, and people will deserve it.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 4:49am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

            > sorry, no deal then

            Also, no meal then. If there is just the devil, and the alternative is starving, you'll go to the devil.

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

            • identicon
              David, 12 Oct 2017 @ 7:16am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

              There isn't just one publisher, and the alternative is negotiating an acceptable deal.

              Fatalistic lazy cowards are part of the problem.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 7:40am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

                ... and you consider yourself to be included in that group of "Fatalistic lazy cowards" and in addition, you agree that you are part of the problem

                ftfy

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 7:48am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

                When career progression requires being published in the foremost journal of your chosen field, there is no choice of publisher.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 8:39am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

            The outrageous thing is that the contracts are what they are in the first place, and that the authors don't say "sorry, no deal then".

            Another solution would be to put them in the public domain to start with. The journals usually have some way of handling that, because US-government papers are public-domain.

            Separately, courts don't have to uphold unreasonable contracts. It's pretty obvious that there's no "meeting of the minds" for clickthrough contracts like this.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 9:11pm

        Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

        You sure like to defend middlemen and corporations to the death when they add negligible things to the bulk of what authors do. Why do you hate authors who willingly post their own work online so much? Someone's a good little corporate cocksucker.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 10:15pm

        Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

        There once was an out of the blue
        Who hated the process of due
        Each paper he'd paid
        Was DMCAed
        And shoved up his ass with a screw

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 12:18am

        Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

        They only block filthy TOR pirates around here.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 3:01am

        Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

        "By your own text these publishers are doing some work"

        ...and yet gain control over the whole work, even at the expense of the people who did the bulk of the original work.

        It always helps if you address the whole argument, not cherry pick the bits you can wave away in blind defense of corporate profits.

        "-- And then I was blocked! Trying again."

        I'm sure you've had the reasons for that explained to you.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2017 @ 3:36am

        Re: Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

        Dang. Premature entry.
        And then I was blocked!



        Weinstein you are
        Einstein you are not

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 9:39pm

      Re: violation of agreements between journals and authors

      I'm an academic who publishes almost entirely in open-access journals because of these issues. That said, external factors like getting grants, tenure, etc. mean that there is strong pressure to publish in prestigious journals. Most of these have such contracts in place. If an assistant professor is choosing between tenure or signing a stupidly one-sided contract, they'll almost always sign the contract. The incentives in academia are truly messed up -- kind of like the incentives that cause an innocent person to sign a plea deal to avoid the possibility of a long prison term.

      In my field, a research paper requires years of effort, often by five to ten people, paid for by tax dollars. We then hand it to a journal that expends (I'm guessing) 20 person hours getting the text into its final edited form. When a generally law-abiding researcher notices this gross asymmetry, and also notes that the vast majority of these contracts are honored in the breach, they share their work--contracts be damned.

      Is it legal? No. Is it rational? Yes.

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

  • icon
    TKnarr (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 10:08pm

    Copyright transfer

    Does the agreement include a legally-applicable (ie. names the work involved) copyright transfer clause? If not, then simply alter the upload to include a checkbox saying "I am the author of this paper and hold the copyright on it.". Then whenever C.R.S. sends a takedown for a paper where the uploader checked that box, ResearchGate simply sends back a reply saying "$NameOfAuthor has stated that he holds the copyright and has not authorized you to act as his agent in copyright matters. Per Section 230, we will not take the material down a court ruling of infringement.".

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

    • identicon
      David, 12 Oct 2017 @ 2:50am

      Re: Copyright transfer

      Then they will have to sue the authors. That's what they should have been forced to do in the first place.

      And maybe after a few lawsuits authors will realize that signing away all their rights is not a good idea and will stop colluding with those publications in order to make science hidden behind paywalls.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 3:19am

        Re: Re: Copyright transfer

        Though that would be going after the right targets it's something that you can be sure that they will never do, as it would draw too much public attention to just how bad the contracts they are offering are.

        A researcher was sued for publishing their own research? How can that be? What do you mean it's not 'their' research any more, that the contract they signed means that a third-party that had nothing to do with the research now owns the right to it such that even the researcher cannot share it?

        No, rather than line themselves up for a flurry of PR black-eyes, they'll go after the platforms that the researchers are sharing their works on, quite likely, as noted in the article, driving more than a few of the researchers to submit their works on services that don't care so much about that pesky 'legality' or 'takedown notices'.

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

  • identicon
    oliver, 12 Oct 2017 @ 12:26am

    There is nothing "responsible" in that coalition!
    This racket must be crushed mercilessly!!
    This is nothing but a scary tactics, RG should just lol at their fruitless efforts to stop the Progress of science.

    All hail SciHub.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 7:44am

      Re:

      The title is opposite of its intended purpose in order to fool the easily fooled, sorta like those responsible energy development ads on tv.

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 1:32am

    Responsible sharing = not sharing, apparently.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 3:53am

    "Responsible sharing" is like a "Guinea pig".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 4:13am

    This sounds like suing musicians for singing their own songs

    If this were the music industry, we would be hearing about the studios suing musicians for daring to sing live versions of their recorded songs. Insanity level 9 has finally been unlocked in the modern age!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 5:10am

      Re: This sounds like suing musicians for singing their own songs

      Well, consider that Ariana Grande was prevented from streaming a live performance of her own music just a few months ago, and you'll realize we're already there.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 8:41am

        Re: Re: This sounds like suing musicians for singing their own songs

        Long before that, Prince was prevented from using his music and even his name, and that certainly wasn't new for the record industry.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 5:29am

    So, let's review

    Their "solution" to their alleged problem is to spam.

    The proper response to this is to blacklist their servers/network allocation permanently in order to stop the abuse they're generating from reaching its targets.

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

  • identicon
    ryuugami, 12 Oct 2017 @ 6:05am

    "Free"?

    But much the same could be said about publishers, which take papers written by publicly-funded academics for free

    This is untrue.

    Academics need to pay to submit articles. It's literally negative value. They charge you for the privilege of making money off of you.

    Those publishers still exist only because administration uses them to evaluate the academics.

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

  • identicon
    Tom Z., 12 Oct 2017 @ 6:08am

    Publisher Surrender and an Alternative

    It is foolish to claim that all publishers have to do is surrender their exclusivity claims. Those claims are the only reason they stay in business.

    But, what if we don't care about them staying in business?

    An alternative is to have researchers publish directly to ResearchGate and then submit their papers to one or more "foundations". The foundation would be a non-profit supported by universities that would perform actual peer review and other supposedly valuable functions that the current publishers now perform.

    Instead of researchers getting a better reputation by being published in a prestigious journal, their reputation would be the result of being featured by prestigious foundations.

    All it would take is for several universities or charitable foundations (Ford, Kellogg, etc.) to financially support some non-profits INSTEAD of paying for scientific journal subscriptions.

    But of course, as an anonymous coward, I will not be the one trying to make this happen.

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

    • icon
      ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 9:52pm

      Re: Publisher Surrender and an Alternative

      That sounds good in theory, however it has one big flaw. Free doesn't put a roof over my head or food in my stomach.

      Yes, everyone pays to publish in "prestigious" journals. And those journals charge subscriptions. But the publishers, editors, peer review, clerks, typesetters, etc can't work for free. And the print runs just don't bring in enough advertising.

      Moving the operation to a university is just putting the cost on someone else. Many universities have publishing houses. But they don't make a profit or at best, a very small one. Foundations are not in the business of publishing.

      I don't have the answer as this is another paradigm from the analogue world to digital. But free is not the answer.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2017 @ 1:31am

        Re: Re: Publisher Surrender and an Alternative

        But the publishers, editors, peer review, clerks, typesetters, etc can't work for free.

        The editors and peer reviewers certainly work for being other academics, while for most journals, the author is expected to submit the work almost ready for print. University librarians are good curators, and paper copies are much less important, hence the increasing number of online academic run journals, where the entire editorial team have left the big publishers and moved to a journal with a different name.

        Also note, with many of the big publishers, the academics have to pay a per page charge to cover any typesetting work carried out by the publishers, and so they have to pay to get printed, and their colleagues and collaborators should pay to get a copy of their papers, which is why the academics making their papers for free is what the publishers are trying to stop by indirect means. Suing those who provide the paper you need would only speed up the flight of academics to new academic run online journals, especially when they are the editors of the titles that you own.

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

      • identicon
        Tom Z., 13 Oct 2017 @ 10:40am

        Re: Re: Publisher Surrender and an Alternative

        Paying to be reviewed by a foundation is still a possibility.

        But the foundation would not be publishing anything in print and would only be publishing their value-add electronically - their peer review and editorial notes.

        The idea of a foundation is that multiple universities would contribute to a foundation in order to support the salaries of those working in the foundation. Ideally, the funds given to the foundation would be similar to what the universities paid originally as subscriptions.

        Its not perfect, but if the papers are already being freely distributed, then subscriptions are out of the question. And a subscription to ResearchGate would not be ideal, because we wouldn't want one monolithic site that distributes all papers AND is the sole peer review source.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 10:38am

    'Coalition For Responsible Sharing'

    Who makes this sh*t up?

    'Responsible Encryption'

    Dang, another good word ("responsible") has been politicized and gutted.

    Where is Orwell when we really need him?

    s/responsible/Big Brother/

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

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 2:43pm

    Unfair Contracts?

    Under Australian law, a standard form contract is deemed to hold unfair terms if;

    - it would cause a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations arising out of the contract

    - it is not reasonably necessary in order to protect the legitimate interests of the party who would be advantaged by the term; and

    - it would cause detriment (whether financial or otherwise) to a party if it were to be applied or relied on.

    Unfair terms in these contracts are deemed to be void.

    I suspect that some other countries have similar provisions in contract law (Canada?, France?). I wonder if this will, in the longer terms, influence a move of research to jurisdictions that are more friendly to researcher rights?

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 3:42pm

    Next, Elsevier demands ResearchGate secure their site using Rosenstein's "Responsible" encryption.

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

  • identicon
    alex, 12 Oct 2017 @ 7:56pm

    How is ResearchGate supposed to know the agreements between authors and journal publishers?

    RG should just put a clause in their upload page like "you certify that you are entitled to upload this" - it probably already has this. It would be unreasonable to ask any more than this, RG just has no practical way to know apart from what uploaders tell them.

    What the copyright-exploiters are demanding under the guise of "filters" is a unilateral veto over everything before it's put on RG. But RG has no contract with them; they should be suing their authors instead.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 9:27pm

      Re:

      They could, but they realize that it'd be horrible for PR. The best they can manage is to scream "copyright!" and get the RIAA on their side, hoping nobody notices the ordeal they put authors through.

      And yes, the RIAA. Perfect 10 got the RIAA on their side. Music or otherwise, the RIAA is a global spokesperson for copyright no matter how misapplied it is.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2017 @ 1:45am

    SciHub can now confidently state that all its content has been "responsibly" licensed.

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

  • identicon
    Justme, 14 Oct 2017 @ 2:57am

    Help me out. . .

    Unless a researcher has entered into some agreement restricting publication in exchange for funding or other compensation, then can they even show standing or an interest in the research??

    Or am i just completely misunderstanding the way scientific research and publishing are done?

    Yes, I know the requirement for a take-down notice are minimal compared to a lawsuit.

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


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