On the one hand we’re told that pure science can only be performed under the “neutrality” of government funding while on the other hand we’re told the research we were forced to fund isn’t ours to access. Having to pay to access research papers that I was forced to fund has been a pet peeve of mine since college. Even though I enjoyed free access to most scientific papers in college the simple fact that I would lose that access as soon as I graduated really rubbed me the wrong way. Fortunately I’m not alone. A group of people have developed a service aimed at pirating scientific research papers:
Sci-Hub uses university networks to access subscription-only academic papers, generally without the knowledge of the academic institutions. When a user asks Sci-Hub to access a paid article, the service will download it from a university that subscribes to the database that owns it. As it delivers the user a pdf of the requested article, it also saves a copy on its own server, so that next time someone requests the paper, they can download the cached version.
Unsurprisingly, Elbakyan’s project has drawn the ire of publishers. Last year, Elsevier sued Sci-Hub and an associated website called Library Genesis for violating its copyright. The two websites “operate an international network of piracy and copyright infringement by circumventing legal and authorized means of access to the ScienceDirect database,” Elsevier’s lawyers wrote in a court filing, referring to the company’s subscription database.
But even if the new domain gets shut down, too, Sci-Hub will still be accessible on the dark web, a part of the Internet often associated with drugs, weapons, and child porn. Like its seedy dark-web neighbors, the Sci-Hub site is accessible only through Tor, a network of computers that passes web requests through a randomized series of servers in order to preserve visitors’ anonymity.
Sci-Hub can be accessed via the normal Internet here and via Tor here. That second link is important to have since Sci-Hub was already shutdown once. While it’s feasible for the State to censor the normal Internet it’s not feasible for it to censor Tor hidden services since there is no centralized name server to threaten.
I don’t hide my opposition to intellectual property in all forms but I especially detest copyright applying to criminally funded research. A thief should make reparations to right the wrong they have caused so the only way to right the wrong of the State stealing money to fund favored researchers it to make the findings of their research freely available to everybody.