Earlier this year publishing company Elsevier filed a complaint at a New York District Court, hoping to shut down the two portals. According to the publisher the sites willingly offer millions of pirated scientific articles.
The court has yet to decide on Elsevier’s request for an injunction and allowed the operators time to respond. This week, Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan submitted her first response.
While Elbakyan’s letter doesn’t address the legality of her website she does place the case in a wider context, explaining how the site came to be.
“When I was a student in Kazakhstan university, I did not have access to any research papers. Papers I needed for my research project,” Elbakyan writes (pdf), explaining that it was impossible as a student to pay for access.
“Payment of 32 dollars is just insane when you need to skim or read tens or hundreds of these papers to do research. I obtained these papers by pirating them,” she adds.
As explained in an earlier interview with TF, Elbakyan then decided to help other researchers to obtain research articles, which eventually grew to become a library of millions of works.
Elbakyan continues her letter by informing the court that unlike in other industries, the authors of these papers don’t get paid. Elsevier requires researchers to sign the copyright over to the company and collects money from their work through licensing and direct sales.
“All papers on their website are written by researchers, and researchers do not receive money from what Elsevier collects. That is very different from the music or movie industry, where creators receive money from each copy sold,” she notes.
Researchers often have no other option than to agree because a career in academia often depends on publications in top journals, many of which are owned by Elsevier.
Posted by guest blogger Meryl Yourish.