Articles on ResearchGate have been found to breach publishers’ copyright, and are facing a lawsuit as a result. 

Nature reports, five publishers have formed a coalition that would start ordering the website to remove articles, a spokesperson for the group said that up to 7 million papers could be affected, and that a first batch of take-down notices, for around 100,000 articles, would be sent out “imminently”.

Coalition members, Elsevier and the American Chemical Society have filed a lawsuit to try to prevent copyrighted material appearing on ResearchGate in the future. They admit to noticing that the site had removed “a significant number of copyrighted articles”, although ResearchGate hadn’t shared information about this with publishers. The statement said, “At this point, not all violations have been addressed and ResearchGate will need to take additional steps to cease unauthorised distribution of research articles.”

Such movement has been a long time coming; researchers have been increasingly posting pay wall research papers online. Not only do academics upload to the site, but ResearchGate also scrapes material online and invites researchers to claim and upload these papers, said James Milne, a spokesperson for the five-publisher group, which calls itself the Coalition for Responsible Sharing.

Earlier this year, information scientist Hamid Jamali, from Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, Australia, reported that he had examined 500 articles at random from ResearchGate, and found that 40% of them breached copyright.

ResearchGate have declined to comment on the coalition’s statement, but its terms of service ask users not to store information that infringes copyright. Milne added, “The expectation is that ResearchGate will be told by the courts to cease certain behaviours.”

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