Freely Accessing Scientific Publications Behind A Paywall

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.

2 thoughts on “Freely Accessing Scientific Publications Behind A Paywall”

  1. I don’t hide my opposition to intellectual property in all forms

    Ah, a member of the Entitled Generation. Heaven forbid you should pay for something you want!

    I wrote a photo-enhance program. It cost me months of long hours to write it, and a copy sells for only $40. But it would be easy enough for someone to hack the security and distribute unlocked copies to the world for free. Or for $20, with the hacker pocketing the money. All with your approval, apparently. Not only that, but you’ll probably include a lecture on how I should be happy for the publicity.

    It brings disrepute on the libertarian community when some of its self-professed members equate liberty with theft.

    And just in case you’re one of those muddle-headed anti-IP’ers who claim that copyright protects ideas, it doesn’t. It protects only specific implementations of ideas. If I write a spreadsheet program, copyright doesn’t prevent you from writing and marketing your own, only from making money selling the one I wrote. Even that is too much for the “I must have it for free” crowd, apparently.

    1. Ah, a member of the Entitled Generation. Heaven forbid you should pay for something you want!

      Yes, I’m so entitled. My posts are always about how much free stuff the world owes me!

      Obviously I’m being sarcastic. Truth be told, those who support intellectual property are the ones who are entitled. Ideas have never been property by the simple fact that you cannot steal one. Me taking your idea doesn’t deprive you of that idea. Property must be exclusively usable by an individual, ideas do not meet that requirement.

      The arguments in favor of intellectual property usually boil down to, “People are entitled to payment for their work.” If people were owed something just for doing hard work almost every business endeavor would have succeeded. But most new businesses fail regardless of how much hard work the owner puts in. Hard work opens the door for the possibility of exchange. If you produce a widget you have the opportunity to exchange it with somebody else but nobody has to exchange anything for it unless they want it.

      Intellectual property is a government subsidy. It’s a promise by the State that it will ruthlessly attacked your intellectual competitors because you achieved an arbitrary criteria such as being the first to file a patent. Instead of simply creating the opportunity for exchange intellectual property opens up the opportunity for exploitive gain by having the State step in to enforce a monopoly that can be profited on through the judicial system.

      If you have a great idea and want to profit from it then you need to come up with a business model the market will support. We live in an age where ideas can be copied for almost free now. Because of that business models have to change. And they are changing. More and more we’re seeing software not as a product itself by as a component in either hardware or service sales. Apple doesn’t charge for most of its software because it uses it as a value add to its hardware. Microsoft is using Windows 10 more as a value add to its various cloud services and Xbox product line. Even games are moving this direction. A lot of publishers are releasing games for free and selling either unlockable items or a subscription service.

      So, in summary, ideas do not meet the requirements for being property and nobody owes you anything. Ideas can open up opportunities for trade if you can convince buyers your idea is worth paying for.

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