Information about the VG Wort page tagging system


Since 2007, the German copyright collective VG Wort has provided a means of receiving remuneration from VG Wort revenues for the use of digitally published documents.

The method involves embedding a tracking pixel (also known as a web bug or web beacon) into HTML webpages so that the number of times the page is accessed can be counted. Opening a page containing a tracking pixel automatically initiates a download request to the VG Wort tracking servers.

However, there are significant shortcomings associated with the use of web beacons in the academic sector. Academic documents are typically made available as PDF documents and tracking pixels cannot be embedded in PDF files, which essentially means that PDF documents are not included in the access count. VG Wort recommends that authors using PDF documents should embed the tracking pixel in the link displayed on the HTML page. This approach has a number of disadvantages:

  1. Only those document requests will be counted that were initiated by clicking on the link on the calling HTML page. As most document download requests come directly from search engines, the number of document requests counted will be far too low and this will severely underestimate view numbers.
  2. Moreover, as the page view threshold specified by VG Wort for remuneration is so high, it is extremely unlikely that any disbursements for academic texts will be made. The way that PDF documents are treated by the VG Wort tracking methodology makes remuneration practically impossible.
  3. The use of tracking pixels also runs counter to the requirement that academic documents must be citable. The view count mechanism for PDF files used by VG Wort functions like a redirect between the calling page, the counting server and the full-text PDF document. This means that if the counting server is down, all requests to access the full-text document from the HTML calling page will fail. This is all the more serious in that the citable address does not reference the full-text PDF document, but only the calling web page.

For this reason, the SULB’s open access servers operate do not make use of VG Wort tracking pixels. If VG Wort decides at some future time to use an alternative request-tracking method, such as that proposed by the German Initiative for Network Information (DINI-AG), the SULB will notify authors that use the library’s publication services accordingly. 

Further information:
Müller, Uwe: Vergütung elektronischer Publikationen in Repositorien - aktueller Stand. 13 (4) 2010, pp. 391–393.