ResearchGate is a social networking site based in Berlin. It allows academics to share published papers, presentations and book chapters with millions of its members. The firm was founded in 2008 and it has received more than $87 million from Science Funders and investors, including Bill Gates. It claims to have more than 13 million users.
A copyright infringement case has now been issued against it in Germany by the publishing company Elsevier and the American Chemical Society (ACS). The launching of legal action comes following an unsuccessful appeal to ResearchGate to stop sharing articles which were protected by copyright.
The dispute started on 15 September when the International Associate of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) wrote to ResearchGate complaining about their article sharing policies. At first, STM requested a system where users could determine whether a published paper could be legally shared and if it was protected by copyright. ResearchGate were given a deadline of 7 days to consider the proposal but failed to respond. According to a coalition of five publishers, it was announced that ResearchGate had declined the offer, and instead had suggested they send takedown notices. These are formal written legal notices requesting that infringing content is removed from websites.
STM considered that the takedown notice proposal did not present a viable long-term solution as the amount of takedown notices potentially required could disrupt the research community. Instead, Elsevier and ACS who are members of STM took ResearchGate to a German regional court for judgement on the legality of posting published copyrighted articles. The action is believed to have been productive already, in that ResearchGate has reportedly removed a large number of copyrighted articles from public view but not all infringements have been resolved.
Elsevier and ACS have asked the German court to comment on the legality of ResearchGate's actions and are also seeking damages, though no figure has been specified. Commentators have cautioned however that any judgment may not be enforceable in the USA.in: Copyright, EU/International