from the you-reap-what-you-sow dept.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
Two years ago, academic publisher Elsevier filed a complaint against Sci-Hub, Libgen and several related "pirate" sites.
The publisher accused the websites of making academic papers widely available to the public, without permission.
While Sci-Hub and Libgen are nothing like the average pirate site, they are just as illegal according to Elsevier's legal team, which swiftly obtained a preliminary injunction from a New York District Court.
The injunction ordered Sci-Hub's founder Alexandra Elbakyan, who is the only named defendant, to quit offering access to any Elsevier content. This didn't happen, however.
Sci-Hub and the other websites lost control over several domain names, but were quick to bounce back. They remain operational today and have no intention of shutting down, despite pressure from the Court.
This prompted Elsevier to request a default judgment and a permanent injunction against the Sci-Hub and Libgen defendants. In a motion filed this week, Elsevier's legal team describes the sites as pirate havens.
The darknet is where you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. An article by Kaveh Waddell over at The Atlantic describes how you can not only access illegal drugs, weapons, and other nefarious materials, but this now includes scientific research papers. Following Elsevier's successful crackdown and dissolution of Sci-Hub, the site owner, Alexandra Elbakyan, has moved it to the darknet.
There will always be techniques for accessing paywalled research for free, even without services like Sci-Hub. Some of them are much less complex than Elbakyan's website: Researchers and scholars often use the hashtag #icanhazpdf on Twitter to ask fellow academics for paywalled articles. (There's even been scholarly work published that analyzes the phenomenon—appropriately, the research is free online.)
But Sci-Hub's ingenious methods automate the process, cut out middle men on Twitter, and don't advertise the request for, essentially, pirated research. And Elbakyan says her website's presence on the dark web will help keep it accessible even if legal action dismantles Sci-Hub's new home on the easily accessible surface web.
The New York Times has an opinion piece about Open Access publishing. It starts with the case of Alexandra Elbakyan a guerilla open access activist who is on the lam from the US government acting on behalf of the copyright cartel. Pricing and other restrictions put many journals out of reach of all but the few researchers at major, well-funded universities in developed nations. The large publishing companies usually have profit margins over 30% and subscription prices have been rising twice as fast as the price of health care, which itself is priced insanely, over the past two decades, so there appears to be a real scandal there. Several options are available including pre-print repositories and various open access journals. The latter require the author to pay up front for publishing. However, the real onus lies on the communities' leaders, like heads of institutions and presidents of universities, who are in a position to change which journals are perceived as high-impact.
Edit: Alexandra Elbakyan founded Sci-Hub in 2011.
A young academic with coding savvy has become frustrated with the incarceration of information. Some of the world's best research continues to be trapped behind subscriptions and paywalls. This academic turns activist, and this activist then plots and executes the plan. It's time to free information from its chains—to give it to the masses free of charge. Along the way, this research Robin Hood is accused of being an illicit, criminal hacker - tale of the late Aaron Swartz
In 2016, the tale has new life. The Washington Post decries it as academic research's Napster moment, and it all stems from a 27-year-old bio-engineer turned Web programmer from Kazakhstan (who's living in Russia).
Just as Swartz did, this hacker is freeing tens of millions of research articles from paywalls, metaphorically hoisting a middle finger to the academic publishing industry, which, by the way, has again reacted with labels like "hacker" and "criminal."
Meet Alexandra Elbakyan, the developer of Sci-Hub, a Pirate Bay-like site for the science nerd. It's a portal that offers free and searchable access "to most publishers, especially well-known ones." Search for it, download, and you're done. It's that easy.
How do you think this will turn out?
[Ed. addition] The Washington Post article elaborates:
Sci-Hub connects to a database of stolen papers. If a user requests a paper in that database, Sci-Hub serves it up. If the paper is not there, Sci-Hub uses library passwords it has collected to find a paper, provides it to the searcher, then dumps the paper in the database. The site can be clunky to use, often sending users to Web pages in foreign languages.
Elbakyan and her supporters have said the passwords were donated by those sympathetic to her cause. But she also acknowledges that some passwords were obtained using the kind of phishing methods that hackers use to dupe people out of financial information.
"It may be well possible that phished passwords ended up being used at Sci-Hub," she said. "I did not send any phishing emails to anyone myself. The exact source of the passwords was never personally important to me."
One of the world's largest science publishers, Elsevier, won a default legal judgement on 21 June against websites that provide illicit access to tens of millions of research papers and books. A New York district court awarded Elsevier US$15 million in damages for copyright infringement by Sci-Hub, the Library of Genesis (LibGen) project and related sites.
Judge Robert Sweet had ruled in October 2015 that the sites violate US copyright. The court issued a preliminary injunction against the sites' operators, who nevertheless continued to provide unauthorized free access to paywalled content. Alexandra Elbakyan, a former neuroscientist who started Sci-Hub in 2011, operates the site out of Russia, using varying domain names and IP addresses.
In May, Elsevier gave the court a list of 100 articles illicitly made available by Sci-Hub and LibGen, and asked for a permanent injunction and damages totalling $15 million. The Dutch publishing giant holds the copyrights for the largest share of the roughly 28 million papers downloaded from Sci-Hub over 6 months in 2016, followed by Springer Nature and Wiley-Blackwell. (Nature is published by Springer Nature, and Nature's news and comment team is editorially independent of the publisher.) According to a recent analysis, almost 50% of articles requested from Sci-Hub are published by these three companies1.