Last week, we received two takedown notices for items deposited to CORE. They arrived at nearly the same time, and so we found ourselves thinking about them in connected ways, though their cases are very, very different.
The first came through AWS Abuse, who passed on a report to us that we were distributing copyright infringing content. Under DMCA Safe Harbor provisions, we are required to take down such potentially infringing material immediately, and can only afterward follow up with an investigation to determine whether it’s actually infringing or whether it should be restored. Agreeing to follow this process is important to the network’s survival, as it’s only through such adherence that we can prevent the Commons from being sued for instances of copyright infringement of which we’re unaware.
In this case, we took the item down. Looking at the document revealed that it was a scan of copyrighted material, so the complainant may have a case. We have, however, inquired with the depositor in case there are complicating circumstances that we should know about.
The second request came to us from a user, who asked us to remove one of their deposits. Generally speaking, we resist removing deposits unless there are very good reasons, given our concern for the continuity of the scholarly record. In this case, it turned out that the deposit was a conference paper that the depositor later submitted for publication by a journal. The journal was now demanding that the deposit be removed, as they have a policy against accepting material that has been published elsewhere.
We reached out to the journal to ask about this policy, noting that even the venerable PMLA would not consider a conference paper deposited in a repository to be a violation of its prior-publication rule.
The response we received was — well, let’s say it — rude. The managing editor ultimately made it clear that if we did not remove the deposit, the journal would rescind its offer of publication to the author.
We are not in the business of harming the careers of our users, and so we have removed the deposit, if reluctantly. But we want to use this incident to open a conversation about the differences between conference papers and published articles, as well as between preprints and publications. We believe that authors have the right to share and seek feedback on the early stages of work prior to submitting that work to publishers, and that the existence of such pre-prints online does not constitute prior publication. And we urge our users to seek venues for publication that do not limit their rights over the ways they share their own work.
What issues have you run into in the relationship between sharing work online and publishing it in more formal venues? How would you encourage us to respond to situations like this? And how might we work together to create a more open, less extractive, and completely non-punitive scholarly communication ecosystem?