Dear Dong Gill:

Thanks for sharing Jan Reichelt's response to your inquiry.

So what are you still confused about? Think of Mendeley as a library. You bring your old books to them and they share them with other people. They also help other people find you to borrow a book from you directly. As simple as that. Is there anything criminal in what libraries do?

To me the ultimate test is very simple: if you personally are not profiting from it - how can you be prosecuted?


Date:    Fri, 22 May 2009 23:58:02 +0100
From:    Dong Gill Kim <>
Subject: (il)legality of sharing PDF papers??
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Dear all:

I was wondering how the founder of Mendeley (a website for pdf file
sharing) is thinking about (il)legality of sharing PDF papers. So I sent a
message to him. With his permission I shared his reply as below. After
reading his reply, I am still very confused. What do you think about it? I
would like to hear your comments.

Here are my comments to your question about the (il)legality of sharing PDF
papers. There's no general/common answer to your question, and we've had
extensive discussions with copyright lawyers about this topic. First,
consider what is common practice right now - the academic community is
sending PDF document back and forth either via e-mail, or use shared network
folder etc., and I wonder if anyone asks him/herself whether sending a PDF
document via e-mail would be illegal. Additionallay, consider the following
You're sharing a paper with one of the colleagues in your lab. Both of you
have access to the same databases via the university, so why should you not
be allowed to share a paper with him that he himself could legally download,

You're sharing a paper with a colleague at another university, and he also
has licensed access to a database that contains the paper. Again, why should
you not be allowed to share a paper with him that he himself could legally
download, too?

Then there's the case of sharing papers from Open Access databases (e.g.
PLoS or BioMedCentral papers, or many papers on PubMed), or papers licensed
with a Creative Commons license. You're explicity and legally allowed to
share and distribute these papers.

You're also allowed to share your own working papers or pre-publication
prints, and usually also papers that you yourself have authored. For over
90% of papers, you're even allowed to post them on your homepage for free
download, see:
Lastly, the case of sharing copyrighted material with other researchers who
have not licensed access to this material. Even here, it's not automatically
copyright infringement - "fair use allows limited use of copyrighted
material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use
for scholarship or review exemption" (see

Besides, we're talking with publishers all the time, and our goal is to work
with them, not against them. Also, we have set up measures such as a limited
number of people in shared groups, shared groups are not visible from
outside, shared group members have to be in the contact network of the group
admin and need to be invited, etc., so that we make sure to have tried
everything that illegal, large-scale filesharing is prohibited. I'm not a
lawyer myself, and ultimately you need to check and decide for your
own case(there might be many more than I just mentioned above). But I
still hope
that my explanation helped to clarify the situation a little bit. Thank you
for all your support (especially to Alexey), and we're doing our best to
develop a great tool for the academic community! Let me know if you have
further questions.

Best wishes

Jan Reichelt
Founder & Director

112 Clerkenwell Road
London, EC1M 5SA
United Kingdom

Tel.: +44 (0)207 253 1595

2009/5/14 Alexey Voinov <>

> To All:
> I just want to make sure that this excellent link does not get buried in
> the discussion. Mendeley offers some really cool services to share your
> papers. It's not as good as the peer-to-peer exchange, but supposedly safer
> in terms of copyright.
> Please take a look at
> Mendeley Desktop is free academic software for managing and sharing
> research papers. It is pretty cool to keep track of all the papers that you
> have downloaded to your hard disk and works like iTunes for music.
> Mendeley Web lets you manage your papers online, discover research trends
> and connect to like-minded researchers. The more of us join, the larger the
> WWW library that we will get access to. Please consider joining.
> The article that was sent earlier is at
> and gives some background about the company.
> If we could all subscribe and upload our publications to Mendeley we would
> already solve a lot of problems with access to our publications.
> To Gavin and likeminded:
> Thanks for the warnings, your points are well taken. Each and everyone has
> their own level of risk tolerance and sets of justifications for what we
> choose to do.
> Here are mine:
> - It has been shown in numerous research that existing patent and copyright
> law is stifling progress. Those who were initially supposed to be benefiting
> from these laws are in fact among the losers. Most of the profits are reaped
> by those who have nothing to do with research.
> - Since we don't have the lobbying power and skills to change the existing
> laws (at least for now), some level of civil disobedience (thanks Bill, I
> really liked that) should be only expected.
> - Unlike musicians, we are not even paid by the publishers to do our
> research. In fact we volunteer to edit and review papers for them to
> benefit. I think it's very unlikely that the publishers will go after
> scientists, since they are smart enough not to kill the goose that lays the
> golden eggs for them. They are in fact the pirates, which was very elegantly
> described in the article that I've already sent earlier.
> (
> )
> - Most of our work is funded by tax money and should be in public domain by
> definition. If the taxpayers paid for the work, then they own the results.
> Publications are the results.
> To Jim and others who are easily pissed:
> Don't put your work on the web. If you post it on the web in open access -
> then it is open access. You can't at the same time use the web to show off
> and expect that nobody will want to use your photos (especially if they are
> good). If you wish to restrict the use of your photos - then make it clear
> and restrict access.
> We all work hard but some of us actually feel good when others find our
> work good enough to use and our ideas smart enough to further disseminate
> for the common good.
> Cheers,
> Alexey
> --
> Alexey Voinov
> _____________________________________________________________________
> !!!****   please note new e-mail address:  ****!!!
> _____________________________________________________________________
> Chesapeake  Research  Consortium  Community  Modeling  Program     &
> Johns Hopkins University Dept. of Geography and Environm. Engineering
> 645 Contees Wharf Road, P.O. Box 28, Edgewater, MD 21037
> TEL: 410 798-1283;  703 880-1178        WWW:

The important thing is to never stop questioning - Albert Einstein

Reply via email to