Show me the data!

Elsevier is also sending takedown requests to UK universities

December 20th, 2013 | Posted by rmounce in Open Access | Publications

Today I received proof that Elsevier are also sending takedown notices to UK universities – asking them to takedown copies of their staff’s academic research papers, hosted on university webpages. The full text is further down this post (in red). It is not just, it is not just the University of Calgary, University of California-Irvine, or Harvard University. Elsevier very probably are sending takedown notices to institutions and websites across the globe.
No-one is safe from these legal threats.

Not only that, but they seem to be encouraging universities to be pro-active and takedown more than just the specific articles identified in the DMCA notice they send! They are encouraging universities to limit access to their research works. This is simply disgraceful (even though I acknowledge they are technically, legally within their rights to do this because of the way in which their copyright transfer agreements are written, which incidentally many academics are effectively forced to sign in order to get published and make progress in their careers).

For background information read:

How one publisher is stopping academics from sharing their research. The Washington Post 19/12/2013

Elsevier steps up its War On Access SVPOW 17/12/2013


Librarians and university web admins: please publicly come out with more examples like this. Researchers, readers and taxpayers desperately need to know about this. Silence and subterfuge benefits no-one, these chilling effects must be publicly revealed.

This is the email I received with certain parts redacted:

*** Sent via Email – Inappropriate postings of Elsevier’s journal articles / DMCA Notice of Copyright Infringement ***

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write on behalf of Elsevier to bring to your attention the inappropriate posting of final published journal articles to your institutional website. I am President at Attributor (A Digimarc Company), which assists some of the world’s most prominent publishers, including Elsevier, with digital content protection ( Following the discussion below, a formal DMCA takedown request is included as Appendix A.

As you probably know, Elsevier journal article authors retain or are permitted a wide scope of scholarly use and posting on their own sites and for use within their own institutions. Those rights are more expansive when it comes to author preprints or accepted manuscripts than with respect to the final versions of published journal articles. Elsevier recognizes that in some cases authors or their institutions may not be fully aware of these rights and can by mistake post the final version of their articles to institutional websites or repositories. Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that copies of final published journal articles have, perhaps inadvertently, been posted for public access to one of your institutional websites.

I therefore request your cooperation to remove or disable access to these articles on your site, including but not limited to the articles identified in Appendix A. We have identified merely a sample in Appendix A, and as a publisher of close to 2,000 journals this might mean that more articles published by Elsevier could be found on your site. Please may I therefore draw your attention to Elsevier’s posting policy and ask for your attention to ensuring that your posting practices comply with this?

In particular I note that Elsevier currently doesn’t permit posting of the final published journal article, and if there is a mandate or systematic posting mechanisms in place then Elsevier asks for a cost-free agreement with the institution before accepted author manuscripts are posted.
I would also recommend considering the use of DOI links as a way to access to the version of records of a published article. This would allow authors to list their work and to provide easy access to peers.

Finally, should you need any help in properly identifying a final published article to prevent any future improper posting, please do get in touch via the email address below.

I appreciate your anticipated cooperation and if you have any questions or feedback, or if you believe you have received this message in error (as you have received permission to post this article from Elsevier), please contact:
Thank you.

Eraj Siddiqui
Attributor (A Digimarc Company)

Appendix A

Copyright Infringement Notice

This notice is sent pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the European Union’s Directive on the Harmonisation of Certain Aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society (2001/29/EC), and/or other laws and regulations relevant in European Union member states or other jurisdictions.

Please remove or disable access to the infringing pages or materials identified below, as they infringe the copyright works identified below.

I certify under penalty of perjury, that I am an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the intellectual property rights and that the information contained in this notice is accurate.

I have a good faith belief that use of the material listed below in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

My contact information is as follows:

Organization name: Attributor Corporation as agent for [Publisher Company]
Phone: 650-340-9601
Mailing address:
400 South El Camino Real
Suite 650,
San Mateo, CA 94402

My electronic signature follows:
/E Siddiqui/
E. Siddiqui
Attributor, Inc.

***List of Works and Location of Infringing Page or Material ***

Infringing page/material that I demand be disabled or removed in consideration of the above:


Infringing page/material that I demand be disabled or removed in consideration of the above:

Rights Holder: Reed Elsevier

Original Work: [redacted]
Infringing URL: [redacted]


Dutch Universities too are receiving DMCA’s from Elsevier:


@Wowter via Twitter

  • Mike Taylor

    Why did you redact the name and URL of the infringing work?

    • I didn’t. The (anon) person at a UK university who kindly sent me this did so. It would identify which university this email came from probably. A lot of university workers are unfortunately hesitant to go public about these takedown notices :S

      • It’s hardly surprising if universities are not publicly stating that they have received these notices. If they do so, they are more or less obliged to either challenge Elsevier’s copyright infringement claims (a challenge that would hardly stand in the circumstances) or to discipline employees who posted copies of Elsevier journal articles on the university website (employees’ contracts almost certainly prohibit posting of material that infringes copyright and doing so therefore places the employee in breach of contract). Quietly taking down the offending files might just be enough to make Elsevier go away while publicly pretending that nothing happened.

        I suppose the thing to do for people who feel strongly about this is to post the journal articles on their own private websites instead. That way, they can save their university from embarrassment.

        • ^ fearmongering.

          There is ABSOLUTELY no shame, or embarrassment to universities, university employees or librarians with regard to this matter. It is Elsevier who should be embarrassed at their own pettyness.

          No employee should be “disciplined” for trying to make THEIR OWN WORK more widely available via a university website. But you’re right – perhaps some action should be taken – maybe the academics involved should go a *helpful* training scheme about Author’s Rights, copyright transfer agreements, preprints and open access. That would be an action I would support – a positive, rather than a negative reaction.

          • Yes, but what do you think about people using their own personal websites rather than the Uni’s? Why wouldn’t they do that?

          • Few academics I know have self-hosted personal websites. It’s very rare.

            More have a Google site / / Tumblr site. The DMCA would go straight to those companies and they would likely quickly comply. So it’s not much better.

          • I would think you’re right about that. Which brings us back to the universities. Which universities tell their employees that they may post material on the uni web site that infringes copyright?

            If they don’t do that, and an employee posts such material and the uni doesn’t then discipline the employee, it effectively becomes the policy of that university to allow its web servers to be used by employees to post copyright-infringing material. Should universities, as public institutions, allow their policies to be dictated by the whims of their individual employees?

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  • jasonhoyt

    What a jolly holiday season this is turning out to be courtesy of Elsevier! Lumps of coal to all, and to all a goodnight!

  • Peter Murray-Rust

    If someone stood up against this, got taken to court, is there not a good chance they would be acquitted? Every 30 years in UK juries overturn outdated laws – Lady Chatterley, Ponting, etc.

    Who is going to bell the cat?

  • Chris R

    IMHO, where the material complained of in the takedown requests is authored by current staff at the university, those responsible should check with the author on the nature of the copyright agreement they signed. 98% may actually transfer copyright, but some will not. Whenever I’ve changed a copyright agreement, the publisher shows no sign of noticing, so I suspect they would just issue takedowns anyway. In addition, the request rubs the author’s nose in their own stupidity if they did actually transfer the copyright!

  • DavidKetcheson

    I’m a strong OA advocate, and a signer of the Elsevier boycott, BUT…

    I don’t break contracts that I have signed!

    Academics who sign away their rights to Elsevier are the ones doing wrong, and that’s what needs to change. A good solution in the interim is to post preprints. That is allowed by most Elsevier journals.

  • As the post makes clear, academics have assigned their copyright to Elsevier so Elsevier is protecting what is now their intellectual property. Copyright is not going away so it is important that academics, universities and vice chancellors engage in responding to the EU and the UK government to show their support for copyright reform to help research and education.

    The Libraries Archives and Copyright Alliance would strongly encourage you to respond to the current European Union consultation on reforming the EU’s Copyright Directive – deadline 5th of February. Lots in there from whether copyright holders should be able to control a URL (yes a URL …) through to Text and Data Mining. EU consultations only happen once in a blue moon so this is important!

  • Charles Oppenheim

    As several people have pointed out, the crucial thing is that employees do NOT assign their copyright to Elsevier. They should insist on using a licence to publish agreement instead. It’s not copyright law that needs changing, it’s what academics foolishly do without thinking. They need educating. Incidentally, in my experience, Elsevier always give way when you refuse to sign their CTA, but it may take a couple of goes before they do so.

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