A faculty friend of mine forwarded me the email following. I have redacted it to remove publisher-identifying information. You can read about the service if you like, though. (I'm not connected with the said service in any way. I think its use in this context borders on the obscene.)
As a [publisher] author, you will know that [publisher] is dedicated to protecting the copyright of your work. For this reason, we use the Attributor service. Attributor automatically searches cyberlockers for unauthorized copies of works or illegal hosting and then issues legally-binding takedown notices. We are increasing Attributor's searches to the full breadth of the internet, to ensure maximum copyright protection.
For this to run as smoothly and efficiently, we are asking that you provide us with (if applicable):
- your personal website address
- your institutional website address
- the website address of your company
This is so we can exclude these sites from the Attributor searches, whilst protecting your copyright. Upon provision of this information, we will of course ensure full data protection.
We look forwards to hearing from you.
How very carefully this is phrased. The copyright of your work. Why, if one didn't know better, one might think that one actually owned the copyright in one's work, instead of the publisher owning it. And one might think that protecting the publisher's copyright by reinforcing access barriers benefited one, instead of reducing one's readership and reuse.
And how very carefully this little DMCA-hunt (which is what "legally-binding takedown notices" suggests to me this is) is being managed. They don't want to issue takedown notices to authors, because that risks major backlash. This publisher doesn't want authors to realize that they don't own their own work, you see. The above missive suggests that they'll even let rogue Internet-available copies with an author as the bootleg source slide, rather than annoy an author.
I'll be interested to see how this plays out. (If anybody sees anything about response rate on such an email campaign, I'd love to know about it.) I can't imagine they're going to be wholly successful in avoiding authors if they really try RIAA-style blanket takedown tactics. I also can't imagine that they won't cause consternation in a good many college and university legal offices, which will trickle down to faculty with a quickness.
I don't imagine they're that stupid or that desperate, so I'm guessing this is either a fishing expedition to see what kind of response rate they get (and perhaps estimate how many rogue copies of their articles are out there because of authors?) or cover for a campaign targeted mostly at academic samizdat on non-academic-owned websites such as web BBSes and perhaps Mendeley-like sites.
If it's samizdat they're after, I hope they don't think they'll avoid faculty backlash...