ResearchGate is at the Epicenter of Legal Controversy, as Large Publishers Sue it over Copyright Infringements

Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-10-09

While global publishing companies, e.g., Elsevier, Wiley and Brill, take ResearchGate to court over scientific article sharing, transition to Open Access can unshackle communication between scholars from legal constraints, due to its licensing conditions.


As a blog post by Robert Harrington published on October 6, 2017, announces, the Coalition for Responsible Sharing, an umbrella organization uniting ACS Pubications, Brill, Elsevier, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer, has recently filed a lawsuit against Berlin-based ResearchGate on the grounds that the practices of this website serving the purpose of networking and collaboration among scholars, such as the distribution of scientific articles, violate copyright. At present, according to figures Harrington cites, ResearchGate is the most consulted website in the scientific community. As a startup company with multimillion venture capitalist funding, ResearchGate hosts articles that are both copyright-protected and materials and publications the sharing of which does not infringe on intellectual property rights of large publishers.

While efforts have been made to arrive at a resolution between ResearchGate and the Coalition for Responsible Sharing that would not involve litigation, these have apparently failed. According to the existing ResearchGate’s guidelines, article removal requests need to be made on a case-by-case basis, such as via take-down notices. This represents a piecemeal solution to the risk the unrestricted article sharing poses to the core business model of the publishers the coalition represents, which is based on subscription paywalls and copyright restrictions that non-Open Access publications require for their dissemination in the scientific community. Effectively, the moment scientists file the final versions of their articles with subscription-based journals of large publishers, these become commodities bought and sold on the global knowledge marketplace.

By Pablo Markin

The full-length original blog article and additional resources can be found at OpenScience blog.

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