Come to think of it, implicitly calling for a boycott of another company while simultaneously trying to bootstrap a business based on violating that company's license terms feels pretty slimy too.
If they were trying to bootstrap a business based on violating Elsevier's licence terms, then why have they complied with Elsevier's requests to take down content?
If their business is based on violating the licence to that content then removing that content would remove their business, and this might be true if all scientific papers had to be published through Elsevier which would mean that a service like this then would not be able to operate without violating those terms, however that is quite clearly not the case.
You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site or Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site or Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Academia.edu the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Academia.edu’s use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site or Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.
edit - and sorry for quoting boilerplate at you, you are right, nobody should have to suffer that.
It does violate expectations, in part because it violates the stated rules of the .edu registrar, and therefore what people expect to find under .edu. But prior to 2001 there was no formal enforcement, and a grandfather clause applies to domains registered up through late 2001. Academia.edu seems to fall in that category, even though the company and site themselves weren't started until after the rule change. Presumably someone was sitting on the domain for a future use. Not sure if they bought it, or the founder was sitting on it for years. Since 2006, transferring grandfathered .edu domains is also prohibited, but it could've been sold in the 2001-06 window.
My understanding was that it was purchased by an LLC, and then the control of the LLC was sold.
Ahhh yes: http://www.quora.com/How-did-Academia.edu-get-the-.edu-domai...
How is it slimy for Academia.edu to operate under the assumption that its contributors retain the right to publish their own work on the site? Or am I missing something about their business model?
Company X is doing something bad.
Company Y is started, in part, to circumvent the bad stuff about Company X. They wage a big PR campaign and take in millions in private funding despite knowing that they have no legal right to circumvent the bad stuff about Company X.
Seems slimy to me, even though I agree Company X sucks.
What's more interesting to me is that ResearchGate, a site which is virtually identical to Academia.edu in its "mission" and design, has been redistributing a shockingly large number of Elsevier PDFs for a long time. Unless these google searches are misleading, there seem to be many thousands of them:
I'm really stumped as to how ResearchGate gets away with this, but Academia.edu is getting hit with DMCA takedowns. Maybe Elsevier and other publishers haven't yet learned to reliably "find" ResearchGate's shared papers, or perhaps they've come up with some arrangement that allows them to publicly share thousands of paywalled PDFs with impunity?
Now that Elsevier have acquired Mendeley, they have chosen a winner from the battle between Mendeley, Academia.Edu, and ResearchGate. It is going to be fairly binary from here on in for the other two parties. Either Elsevier and other commercial publishers will try and sue them out of existence, or send them enough takedown notices to render them useless, or they will acquire them. Either way I can't see an endgame here between these three businesses that doesn't result in the academic publishing landscape remaining almost as balkanised as it was 5 years ago.
I think the ultimate winner in this space won't look anything like Academia.edu, RG, or Mendeley.
So, in a sense, are Academia.edu not encouraging this behaviour (which is frequently copyright-infringing) by making it hard to add references without actively uploading the pdfs themselves?
One of the things we get told frequently is that we need to "expand our social media presence", i.e. to get LinkedIn and academia.edu. This is essentially highly functioning hypocrasy in my opinion, because the same people who advocate it or "follow" your profile, if met directly, do not give a shit about what you are working on.
I have enough of the "so...what are you working on?" question that immediately follows the exchange of names. It is almost always followed by the shortest possible description, because, really, nobody gives a shit. Often enough, even the general topic area is enough to make other people glaze over and switch off. Academia.edu etc. pretend that there is great interest where there is none, and at the same time further the already backstabby and highly disingenious environment within academia.
At least, that's my take on it.
: It also furthers the already widespread plague of inflating your CV with absolutely bloody everything you've ever done. Given a 15-minute talk as an introduction to a class or seminar? That's a "talk" now, apparently. Organised a club that met (perhaps once) to discuss the importance of petting animals during the exam period, and that asks for access to petting animals for everybody. Onto your profile it goes. Wrote an "article" for the "journal" you and those other people you know "published", made up of your and your friends' articles? Publications! etc.
: I wish I were kidding. I am not. However, since posting a citation for this would reveal a bit more about me than I care to share here, I won't. Take it or leave it!
Kinda like academic publishing, right? Pretty sure the Erdos number was around well before Academia.edu.
To make it clear - I think a lot of Academia.edu's practices are annoying - login wall for papers etc. But academia would be well served if it took better advantage of some of the possibilities online collaboration brought (think of the Polymath projects). CiteULike/arxiv cannot be the high point of online academic publishing.
This has partly to do with the dreadful "tooling" in many cases, i.e. in most cases Word with handwritten citations. If you are lucky, people use Endnote or Zotero. If you are really lucky, you might encounter somebody who knows what (Open|Libre) Office is. Your options for collaborations are thus: Google Docs (if people can manage the technical complexity) or mailing around Word files.
I hadn't looked at Academia.edu through this lens before. I think it's in a position to accomplish a lot more, so here's hoping they focus on 'impact' and not just 'engagement'.
Note that this even includes the author copy of the manuscript (albeit with slightly more lenient terms - the author may only post the copy to a personally operated website or their institution's website).
People think of their profile area on a social site as theirs, the law not withstanding, and pissing around with research scientists public profiles just sounds to me about as bright for a company that depends on academia as sticking your face in a bucket of angry bees.
This is not true for the vast majority  of papers; for most articles published by Elsevier, the authors have to sign away their copyright first. What the parent says applies only to papers published "open access" by Elsevier. Both the links posted by the parent talk about Elsevier's policy for this type of publication. To publish an article as open access, authors  have to pay nontrivial sums to Elsevier :
For open access articles a fee is payable by the author, their institution or research funder to cover the costs associated with publication. Fees range from $500 - $5000 USD. Visit the individual journal homepages for specific pricing information.
Elsevier uses the term "subscription articles" for "regular" articles (where one doesn't have to pay this huge fee). For these regular articles, the authors have to sign away their copyright as part of a "Journal Publishing Agreement" before Elsevier will publish. Here is some sample legalese from a recent such agreement :
I hereby assign to Elsevier Inc. the copyright in the manuscript identified above (government authors not electing to transfer agree to assign an exclusive publishing and distribution license) and any supplemental tables, illustrations or other information submitted therewith that are intended for publication as part of the manuscript (the "Article") in all forms and media (whether now known or hereafter developed), throughout the world, in all languages, for the full term of copyright, effective when and if the article is accepted for publication. This transfer includes the right to provide the Article in electronic and online forms and systems.
I strongly suspect that the number of articles published "open access" by Elsevier is a minuscule fraction of their total publication, just because there are not many academics who have that kind of money to spend.
 Admittedly, by my own reckoning; I couldn't find relevant publication numbers online.
 Or their funding agency, e.g., the institute/department/university/country where the authors work.
Isn't there a site that relies upon the "scholarly sharing" clause ("sharing individual articles with colleagues for their research use")? Where you request an article and someone can effectively email it to you?
Can you issue a DMCA based on this type of clause? I wonder if they have issued DMCAs for documents falling under this?
- to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell them
- to create derivative works
- to perform or display the work publicly
- to sell or assign these rights to others
- to transmit or display by radio or video
So assigning Elsevier your right to (only) publish the work is legitimate.