Sci-Hub illegally accesses the secure computer networks of a large number of major universities by, among other methods, hijacking “proxy” credentials used to facilitate off campus remote access to university computer systems and databases. Sci-Hub uses these broad intrusions to gain unauthorized access to the scientific databases to which universities subscribe, illegally harvest articles and books and simultaneously make copies of the content available at libgen.org and numerous “mirror” sites.
Sci-Hub and Libgen have built vast repositories of illegally obtained content that they use to fulfill requests for articles and books, thus becoming a massive illegal competing source for copyrighted content. The repositories already hold 40 million articles and over a million books, all of which are also being made available through one or more of Libgen’s multiple active mirror sites, including libgen.info, bookfi.org, bookzz.org, bookre.org and booksc.org.
One of the admitted operators of these sites was quoted as saying “its main goal is to provide the less privileged with access to science and knowledge.” According to industry statistics, China and Russia, major markets for scientific materials, were in fact the top two sources of traffic to Sci-Hub in June 2015.
Scientific and technical publishers enable free or very low-cost access for researchers at thousands of institutions in over 100 developing countries through Research4Life and the Hinari Program. Publishers are providing or supporting a variety of market-priced options to individual researchers through rental models, individual article purchases, and the ability to obtain materials via local interlibrary loan arrangements from national libraries. With respect to interlibrary loan or document delivery options, many scientific publishers also support the STM Statement on Document Delivery that supports developed market libraries providing copies to libraries into the Research4Life institutions.
Sci-Hub’s and Libgen’s scheme to reproduce and distribute copyrighted works, poses a significant threat to book and journal publishing and to authors and scholarly societies reliant on the royalties derived from sales and subscription income. This is particularly true of not-for-profit publishers that reinvest revenue generated from publications into humanitarian efforts.
These activities also have a detrimental effect on public health and safety. While publishers work to ensure that their publications create an accurate and correct scientific record, (i.e., publishing revisions to correct or update data), Libgen’s repository of articles cannot perform this important function for users. Such corrections and revisions are vital to public health and safety; for example, uncorrected drug dosage data could lead to serious medical errors. Sci-hub and LibGen also provide indiscriminate access to content. Certain information, regulated for distribution by publishers, may be available to parties not intended to have this technical knowhow.
The publishing industry is addressing the harm caused by entities such as Sci-Hub.org and Libgen.org, which are engaged in massive copyright infringement. Elsevier, a leading journal publisher, has initiated a complaint against Sci-Hub and Libgen seeking to permanently enjoin the sites from continuing their illegal activities and to alert third party companies that might be unwittingly supporting the sites’ activities to refrain from doing so.
The industry hopes to prevent these services from further compromising the security of colleges, universities, database owners, and individuals’ personal computers for the purpose of engaging in mass criminal computer intrusions and copyright infringement.