A master’s student from Kazakhstan is challenging copyright infringement with her database of academic journal articles.
Since 2011, Alexandra Elbakyan, 27, has operated Sci-Hub, an online database of nearly 50 million copyrighted academic journal articles. Through her database, individuals around the world can freely access academic articles that were previously only attainable through an expensive subscription or article fees. Some subscriptions are $500 per year, while articles cost around $35 each.
In June 2015, Elsevier—one of the largest academic publishers in the industry—filed a civil action suit in New York Federal Court against Elbakyan and LibGen, another pirate database that provides access to over 20 million academic papers.
Let’s face it, LibGen and SciHub are popular because they solve a problem Elsevier should have solved: disseminating knowledge.
— ⓪ Rik Smith-Unna (@blahah404) June 10, 2015
Sci-Hub is simple to use; more intuitive, even, than the legendary torrent site, Pirate Bay. More often than not, though, the user is sent to a Cyrillic language page in order to access their desired paper. Other than the minor linguistic hurdles, however, obtaining an article for free via Sci-Hub is easy.
However, she obtained these 50 million articles (and counting) through internet piracy. Her actions, and those of many around her, have violated copyright codes.
Speaking via Google chat, Elbakyan told The Washington Post, “There are many ways to argue that copyright infringement is not theft, but even if it is, it is justified in this case. All content should be copied without restriction. But for education and research, copyright laws are especially damaging.”
Sci-Hub is a goal, changing the system is a method https://t.co/ACWeVnjOAn
— Alexandra Elbakyan (@ringo_ring) March 11, 2016
“This is outright piracy,” Lui Simpson told the Washington Post. Simpson is the executive director of international enforcement and trade policy for the Association of American Publishers.
“Nobody is justified in doing this.”