ACS and Elsevier ask US courts to address ResearchGate’s copyright responsibility

Two members of the Coalition for Responsible Sharing, the American Chemical Society (ACS) and Elsevier, have taken legal action in the United States to address ResearchGate’s responsibility for copyright infringements on its site. A legal claim was filed on 2nd October 2018 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The action seeks to hold ResearchGate responsible for violating U.S. copyright law regarding final published articles in ACS and Elsevier journals. Both scholarly publishers filed a claim in Germany against ResearchGate in October 2017, which is still ongoing.

The complaint alleges that ResearchGate takes high-quality scientific articles that are written and published by others and makes them freely available via its for-profit platform. The Coalition estimates that as many as 4 million copyrighted articles have been infringed via ResearchGate’s site, and this number continues to grow by the day. ResearchGate’s business model depends on the distribution of these in-copyright articles to generate traffic to its platform, which is then commercialized through the sale of targeted advertising. The platform finds its widest prevalence in the U.S. and hence ACS and Elsevier were left with no other choice but to take action in the U.S. in addition to ResearchGate’s home base in Germany.

“ResearchGate continues to reject the viable long-term solutions we have proposed to address the copyright infringement on its site,” says James Milne, PhD, spokesperson for the Coalition for Responsible Sharing. “We have not taken this legal step lightly, but unfortunately so far ResearchGate has refused all collaborative efforts we have put forth from our side; we see no other option but to take this route. Our ultimate goal is to find a long-term, viable solution with ResearchGate.”

Over the last few years, both the STM Association as well as the Coalition for Responsible Sharing made numerous attempts to find amicable solutions for ResearchGate’s damaging practices, seeking to avoid formal, legal action. These efforts included encouraging ResearchGate to join the over 50 organizations who have endorsed the STM Association’s Voluntary Principles for Article Sharing on Scholarly Collaboration Networks.

Members of the Coalition for Responsible Sharing also offered a user-friendly technical solution to make sharing via the ResearchGate site seamless and easy for researchers. Such an automated system would process uploads immediately and automatically, indicating to users whether an article can be shared publicly or privately. The system would then, where permissible, post the content widely or, where an article is subject to restrictions, make it available to its co-authors or other private research groups only.

ResearchGate rejected these proposed solutions but the Coalition for Responsible Sharing remains hopeful that a solution that is in the interest of all stakeholders and that is consistent with access and usage rights can be found.

About the Coalition for Responsible Sharing

The Coalition for Responsible Sharing was formed in October 2017 to address ResearchGate’s open disregard for copyright laws, evident through its storing and mass distribution of infringing copies of copyrighted material. The Coalition for Responsible Sharing has more than tripled its membership since it was formed and includes a wide variety of organizations from across the academic publishing industry who exercise a global reach, including leading professional societies and other non-profits, and commercial publishing organizations.