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Partial success for publishers suing ResearchGate

Munich court rules the article-sharing site responsible for copyright infringement but denies claims for damages

by Laura Howes
March 22, 2022

A German court dealt a blow against ResearchGate, a popular social networking site that allows users to upload and share research papers, when it ruled that the platform is responsible for articles it hosts that infringe on copyright.

The Jan. 31 decision by the Munich I Regional Court resulted from a suit brought by scientific publishers the American Chemical Society (ACS) and Elsevier in 2017.

“We welcome the court’s decision confirming that it is illegal for ResearchGate to make content available on its site without permission from publishers, which it does for its own commercial gain,” James Milne, chair of the Coalition for Responsible Sharing and president of ACS Publications, says in a statement. (ACS also publishes C&EN.)

However, the judgment was not a slam dunk for the publishers. The court dismissed claims for damages because under German copyright law “there are higher requirements for proof of ownership of the rights in the event of a claim for damages,” according to a press release from the court.

“This ruling is a reminder of how resistant to change some actors in the scholarly communications ecosystem remain. Our work is as necessary today as it was when we started ResearchGate,” Ijad Madisch, ResearchGate co-founder and CEO, says in a statement.

This particular court decision is unlikely to be the final word. ResearchGate has filed an appeal, and ACS and Elsevier also plan to appeal, according to a March 2 statement posted by the Coalition for Responsible Sharing. A second copyright infringement suit, this time in the US, is also still ongoing.



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