Science wins a copyright suit against piracy

Science wins a copyright suit against piracy

4 July 2017

Legal News

Scientific publishing giant, Elsevier, has won 15 million dollars in damages from a science journal piracy site called Sci-Hub. However, the copyright suit has left many doubting whether Elsevier and its collaborators will ever actually see this compensation or the site shut down, for that matter.

Sci-Hub is a pirate site that publishes scientific publications for free since 2011 and is run by Alexandra Elbakya, a neuroscientist that operates the site from Russian. The site makes use of varying IP addresses and domain names. A common practice among pirates. This is the reason why the court ruling might be inconsequential: New York has no jurisdiction over Russia.

The copyright suit also included the request of a permanent injunction of Sci-Hub and LibGen. The latter is a search engine that allows users to find scientific content that is either paywalled or not available in digital. One of its main sources, as a matter of fact, is Elsevier’s portal ScienceDirect.

Elsevier provides users with scientific research, technical reports, medical studies and many other kinds of knowledge driven articles since 1880. The company publishes around 420 thousand articles every year in over 2.500 journals across the globe.

Although the scientific community has voiced concern and reproach on the way that Elsevier handles their copyrights, the company still holds the rights to the material. In 2012, a group of over 34 mathematicians claimed that Elsevier makes money off the free labor of scientists.

Being open access proponents does not entitle others to use copyrighted content for free. This is why on May 2017, Elsevier filed the complaint. In the copyright suit, they claimed that Sci-Hub’s activities cause irreparable injury to the company, the costumers and the public. Since Elbakyan refused to show at court, Judge Sweet, from the southern New York district court ruled in favor of the Dutch company.

DeVore and DeMarco is the firm representing the Dutch company.

To the ruling, the CEO of the Association of American Publishers, Maria A. Pallante, has stated that the judge’s decision confirms the “importance of copyright law in furthering scientific research”.

Matt McKay, the spokesperson for the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) in the UK, states that sites like Sci-Hub don’t add value to the scholarly community. He claims that it “neither fosters scientific advancement nor does  it value researchers’ achievements“. Sci-Hub, according to the STM, is a place where people can access stolen content and leave.


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