Scientific publishers are extending their legal actions against networking site ResearchGate. In the latest move, the American Chemical Society and Elsevier filed a lawsuit on Oct. 2 in a U.S. federal court alleging copyright infringement for papers uploaded to, and shared on, the site by its users.
The suit follows a similar one filed last year in Germany, where ResearchGate is located. ACS publishes C&EN.
“ResearchGate takes high-quality scientific articles written and published by others and uses them for its own commercial gain by making them freely available,” says James Milne, senior vice president of ACS’s Journals Publishing Group, speaking on behalf of a group of 15 scientific information organizations called the Coalition for Responsible Sharing. The coalition estimates that as many as four million copyrighted articles are now illegally shared on ResearchGate.
Founded in 2008, ResearchGate now has more than 15 million members and 100 million publications, according to its website. It is a for-profit company with funding from investors including Bill Gates, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, and the Wellcome Trust.
The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court in Maryland to order ResearchGate to stop reproducing or distributing material copyrighted by ACS or Elsevier; to delete all unauthorized copies of ACS or Elsevier copyrighted material from ResearchGate computer servers; and to pay damages.
ACS, Elsevier, and other members of the coalition want ResearchGate to automatically scan papers as they are uploaded to determine whether they can be shared publicly or privately. ResearchGate opposes doing so, calling such preemptive screening an attack on academic freedom. Instead, ResearchGate prefers to have publishers identify copyrighted material and ask ResearchGate to remove it.