Elsevier is taking a hard-line posture against several different universities, asking them to take down their own scholars’ research, the Washington Post blog The Switch reports.

The publisher has sent out thousands of requests for Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedowns. Academic social media site Academic.edu, for instance, got 2,800 requests in a few weeks, to which the network complied. It was part of a broader effort to take down unauthorized copies of papers from across the web — also getting takedown notices were the University of Calgary, the University of California-Irvine and Harvard University.

According to the blog, Elsevier is within its rights to send out the notices but is going against a “long-standing tradition of looking the other way” in the case of scholars disseminating their own work.

The publisher, which the blog points out made $1 billion in profit in 2012 with a 34% profit margin, has been aggressively lobbying against policies promoting open access. It does offer academics publishing in 1,600 of its journals the ability to open-access publish, although freely dissmeniaing their work requires a substantial fee and the free option allows ony early drafts to be shared.

Elsevier declined to comment on the record for the story but said in a statement its takedown notices are issued “from time to time when the final version of the published articles has been, often inadvertently, posted,” and adding that it does this “to ensure that the final published version of an article is readily discoverable and citable via the journal itself in order to maximize the usage metrics and credit for our authors, and to protect the quality and integrity of the scientific record.”

It also noted that academics are free to share non-published versions of the research, or the final version if the author or funder has paid for the access option.

A subsequent update, according to The Switch, acknowledged there was “indeed also a business-focused reason for takedown notices,” and asking “what library will continue to subscribe if a growing proportion of articles is available for free elsewhere?” 

Sources quoted by the blog said they believed Elsevier’s takedown campaign may inspire academics to go the open-access route, although some fear that might negatively impact future employment prospects.