Futurism has done an interview over e-mail with Alexandra Elbakyan who founded Sci-Hub ten years ago. Over that time, it has become both widely used and well-stocked, having picked up momentum in 2016. There are now over 87 million research articles in its database, though not evenly distributed over academic disciplines.
As of September, Sci-Hub has officially existed for 10 years — a milestone that came as a lawsuit to determine if the website infringed on copyright laws sits in India’s Delhi High Court. Just a few months prior, Elbakyan tweeted that she was notified of a request from the FBI to access her data from Apple. And before that, the major academic publisher Elsevier was awarded $15 million in damages after the Department of Justice ruled that Sci-Hub broke copyright law in the U.S.
But that ruling can’t seem to touch Sci-Hub. And Elbakyan remains absolutely unrepentant. She advocates for a future in which scientific knowledge is shared freely, and she’s confident that it’s coming.
Futurism caught up with Elbakyan to hear what’s next. Over email, she explained her vision for the site’s future, her thoughts on copyright law, and more. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The article goes on to report that she had expected copyright law to be corrected long before so much time had passed. In many ways Sci-Hub can be seen as a form of push back against the academic publishing houses which are infamous for abusive practices and pricing. The cost of research, writing, editing, peer-review, and more are all borne by the researchers and their institutions with little beyond distribution borne by the publisher. The big publishing houses then sell access back to the same researchers and institutions at rates that a small and decreasing number can afford.
(2021) Large Publishers Aim to Own the Entire Academic Research Publishing Stack
(2021) Sci-Hub Pledges Open Source & AI Alongside Crypto Donation Drive
(2018) Swedish ISP Punishes Elsevier for Forcing It to Block Sci-Hub by Also Blocking Elsevier
(2018) Sci-Hub Proves That Piracy Can be Dangerously Useful
(2017) Sci-Hub Bounces from TLD to TLD
(2015) Elsevier Cracks Down on "Pirate" Science Search Engines
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Tired of seeing [abstract only] on SoylentNews? Try searching for the title on the Library Genesis search engine.
According to Elsevier the company is losing revenue because of these sites, so in order to stem the tide the publisher has filed a complaint [PDF] at a New York federal court hoping to shut them down.
"Defendants are reproducing and distributing unauthorized copies of Elsevier's copyrighted materials, unlawfully obtained from ScienceDirect, through Sci-Hub and through various websites affiliated with the Library Genesis Project," the complaint reads. "Specifically, Defendants utilize their websites located at sci-hub.org and at the Libgen Domains to operate an international network of piracy and copyright infringement by circumventing legal and authorized means of access to the ScienceDirect database," it adds.
According to Elsevier, the websites access articles by using unlawfully obtained student or faculty access credentials. The articles are then added to the "pirate" library, backed up on their own servers.
Tom Allen, President of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), informs TF that websites such as Libgen pose a threat to the quality of scientific publications, as well as the public health. "Scholarly publishers work to ensure the accuracy of the scientific record by issuing corrections and revisions to research findings as needed; Libgen typically does not," Allen says. "As a result, its repository of illegally obtained content poses a threat to both quality journal publishing and to public health and safety."
The court has yet to decide whether the injunctions should be granted, but considering outcomes in recent piracy cases there's a good chance this will happen. For the time being, however, the Libgen and Sci-hub websites remain online.
Sci-Hub is often referred to as the "Pirate Bay of Science," and this description has become more and more apt in recent weeks.
Initially, the comparison was made to illustrate that Sci-Hub is used by researchers to download articles for free, much like the rest of the world uses The Pirate Bay to get free stuff.
There are more parallels though. Increasingly, Sci-Hub has trouble keeping its domain names. Following two injunctions in the US, academic publishers now have court orders to compel domain registrars and registries to suspend Sci-Hub's addresses.
Although there is no such court order for The Pirate Bay, the notorious torrent site also has a long history of domain suspensions. Both sites appear to tackle the problem in a similar manner. They simply ignore all enforcement efforts and bypass them with new domains and other circumvention tools. They have several backup domains in place as well as unsuspendable .onion addresses, which are accessible on the Tor network.
Since late November, a lot of Sci-Hub users have switched to Sci-Hub.bz when other domains were suspended. And, when the .bz domain was targeted a few days ago, they moved to different alternatives. It's a continuous game of Whack-a-Mole that is hard to stop.
Don't forget Library Genesis .
Previously: The Research Pirates of the Dark Web
Sci-Hub, the Repository of "Infringing" Academic Papers Now Available Via "Telegram"
Elsevier Wants $15 Million Piracy Damages from Sci-Hub and Libgen
US Court Grants Elsevier Millions in Damages From Sci-Hub
Sci-Hub Faces $4.8 Million Piracy Damages and ISP Blocking
Virginia District Court Demands that ISPs and Search Engines Block Sci-Hub
Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984
Despite two lost legal battles in the US, domain name seizures, and millions of dollars in damage claims, Sci-Hub continues to offer unauthorized access to academic papers. The site's founder says that she would rather operate legally, but copyright gets in the way. Sci-Hub is not the problem she argues, it's a solution, something many academics appear to agree with.
Sci-Hub has often been referred to as "The Pirate Bay of Science," but that description really sells the site short.
While both sites are helping the public to access copyrighted content without permission, Sci-Hub has also become a crucial tool that arguably helps the progress of science.
The site allows researchers to bypass expensive paywalls so they can read articles written by their fellow colleagues. The information in these 'pirated' articles is then used to provide the foundation for future research.
What the site does is illegal, according to the law, but Sci-Hub is praised by thousands of researchers and academics around the world. In particular, those who don't have direct access to the expensive journals but aspire to excel in their academic field.
Submitted via IRC for Bytram
[...] Unfortunately for Swedes and for science, the Swedish Patent and Market Court (which never met a copyright overreach it didn't love) upheld the order, and Bahnhof, a small ISP with limited resources, decided not to appeal (a bigger, richer ISP had just lost a similar appeal).
Instead, Bahnhof now blocks attempts to visit Sci-Hub domains, and Elsevier.com, redirecting attempts to visit Elsevier to a page explaining how Elsevier's sleaze and bullying have allowed it to monopolize scientific publishing, paywalling publicly funded science that is selected, reviewed and edited by volunteers who mostly work for publicly funded institutions.
To as[sic] icing on this revenge-flavored cake, Bahnhof also detects attempts to visit its own site from the Patent and Market Court and redirects them to a page explaining that since the Patent and Market Court believes that parts of the web should be blocked, Bahnhof is blocking the court's access to its part of the web.
Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan has launched a donation drive to ensure the operations and development of the popular academic research platform. For safety reasons, donations can only be made in cryptocurrencies but the pledges include a drive to open source the project and the introduction of artificial intelligence to discover new hypotheses.
[...] A new campaign launched by Elbakyan on Saturday hopes to encourage people to contribute to the site's future, promising "dramatic improvements" over the next few years in return.
In addition to offering enhanced search features and a mobile app, Sci-Hub is pledging developments that include the open sourcing of the project. Also of interest is the pledge to introduce an artificial intelligence component that should make better use of the masses of knowledge hosted by Sci-Hub.
"Sci-Hub engine will [be] powered by artificial intelligence. Neural Networks will read scientific texts, extract ideas and make inferences and discover new hypotheses," Elbakyan reveals.
The overall goal of the next few years is to boost content availability too, expanding from hosting "the majority of research articles" available today to include "any scientific document ever published."
Related: Sci-Hub Bounces from TLD to TLD
Sci-Hub Proves That Piracy Can be Dangerously Useful
Paywall: A Documentary About the Movement for Open-Access Science Publishing
Swedish ISP Punishes Elsevier for Forcing It to Block Sci-Hub by Also Blocking Elsevier
Library Genesis Seeding Project Helps to Decentralize Archive of Scientific Knowledge
Scientists to be Heard in High-Profile Publisher Lawsuit Against Sci-Hub in India
Over at Techdirt, Glyn Moody writes briefly about how to stop the large academic publishing houses from completing their attempts at gaining control over the entire publishing process from end-to-end.
Techdirt's coverage of open access -- the idea that the fruits of publicly-funded scholarship should be freely available to all -- shows that the results so far have been mixed. On the one hand, many journals have moved to an open access model. On the other, the overall subscription costs for academic institutions have not gone down, and neither have the excessive profit margins of academic publishers. Despite that success in fending off this attempt to re-invent the way academic work is disseminated, publishers want more. In particular, they want more money and more power. In an important new paper, a group of researchers warn that companies now aim to own the entire academic publishing stack: [...]
As it stands, universities stand for the salaries of the faculty members who research, write, and edit the journal articles at no cost to the publishers which then charge exorbitant prices for access to the results.
(2020) Open Access Journals Get A Boost From Librarians—Much To Elsevier's Dismay
(2019) University of California Boycotts Publishing Giant Elsevier Over Journal Costs and Open Access
(2019) German Institutions Reach Open Access Deal with Scientific Publisher Wiley
(2018) Elsevier's Demands are Unacceptable to Germany's Academic Community
(2017) List of "Predatory Publishers" Disappears