CNKI should contribute to knowledge flow
According to a series of court verdicts recently disclosed by the Beijing judicial authorities, China National Knowledge Infrastructure has infringed on the rights of the plaintiffs by providing paid online access to their articles without permission. It was ordered to pay compensation of 196,000 yuan ($28,988) for the losses involved in 13 cases.
China National Knowledge Infrastructure, CNKI, is a near-monopoly provider of pay-to-view academic papers that is owned by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council.
Three months ago some institutes of higher education and research, including the well-funded Peking University and Chinese Academy of Sciences, stopped using the website citing exorbitant charges. At the same time, some scholars sued CNKI for making profits from their research findings without their permission.
That prompted the copyright and market authorities to start investigating CNKI, which pledged it would cooperate with the investigation and rectify any wrong practices.
However, the latest disclosure of the verdicts of the 13 cases, indicates that CNKI has apparently not changed its problematic profit model that is suspected of being based on copyright infringement.
Without the consent of the copyright owners, CNKI collects their works and provides paid reading and downloading services, which not only damages the interests of the original authors, but also forces readers to pay a high price, even the authors cannot read their own papers without paying CNKI. That business model cannot be justified by any means.
Given its public ownership, the website should promote the flow and sharing of knowledge and information and set a good example of intellectual property rights protection. But it has failed to do both. Also, what has happened to the huge profits it has made over the years, which dwarf its operating costs, remains opaque.
The question is for how long the self-claimed active promoter of knowledge sharing for public interests and an ardent protector of IPR will continue to be allowed to say one thing and do another.