back to article City of London Police warn against using ‘open science’ site Sci-Hub

The City of London Police, which has responsibility for intellectual property crime across the UK, has warned universities and scientists not to use “open science” site Sci-Hub. The British cops also called for it to be blocked by universities. Sci-Hub is a self-proclaimed “pirate website” that offers “mass and public access …

  1. Schultz

    "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

    This sentence lies at the heart of the underlying conflict, which goes beyond the short-term question of whether or not a University should block Sci-Hub. There will always be some organization with a strategic interest to lock down intellectual property, ideally for perpetuity and with harsh penalties. It's those organizations that gave us today's restrictive patent and copyright laws. But society at large (dare I say Humanity?) clearly benefits from open exchange of ideas. Where to draw the line between the two?

    I believe that the existence of places such as SciHub, Piratebay, ... and their respective success or failure reflects the fact some copyright rules no longer reflect a wider societal consensus.

    1. shortfatbaldhairyman

      Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

      Cannot agree more! Wish I could up vote it a million times.

      Universities seem to have lost their bearings, how many have compromised by agreements with less than free governments? Apart from the problems of industry influenced research.

      Maybe they never had any bearings, maybe we were being naive.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

        I mostly think the publication model is wrong.

        Scientists do research - paid by the university

        Scientists write the articles - paid by the university (and let's face it: at night, in their own spare time)

        Scientists review the articles that are sent to the journals - paid by the university (and as some "light reading" when they are on holidays)

        Scientists are "guest editors", curating articles for special editions of journals - again, paid by the university.

        And then the universities have to pay more to access these same articles. Brilliant model, isn't it? Especially now that most journals are accessed online, no longer printed and bound and shipped. And considering the last point, requiring a colour surcharge for coloured figures is really nasty.

        Paid by the university is ultimately "paid with tax money". (mostly)

        1. NATTtrash

          Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

          "I mostly think the publication model is wrong."

          Hear, hear! This is a problem of the "scientific publication" market to begin with. And what do we see? Publishers like Elsevier, who do very little in the publication process (although they don't agree of course, so why do we still have to write in stead of they themselves putting stuff down on paper?). They do FA and still make obscene amounts of money, that helps "science" or what ever you want to call it, in no single way. And all that while we as scientists have to buy back our own publications. With public money I might add. So your money. But hey... We know you love those taxes. Luckily there is a drive to publish in open journals, but that development is painfully slow, and of course hampered by all those other forces in life. Lobbying... Status... Money... Big absentee: science, and all the forces promoting it. "For the benefit of the people" is there, but it seems to be strangely limited to some within certain companies...

          Meanwhile we see the same FUD that always is being distributed if some see a movement that costs them money and thus is not liked. Funny thing though if you read this "advice" by our friends in blue: so where do people log in if they have to download that publication? Have to give their email to enable phishing? I know you have to for that great "I-own-you" Mendeley website/ program. Any publishers paywall if you want to enlighten yourself about, well, er, I don't know, any kind of virus, disease, or what ever. But for SciHub? Nope, sorry, no log in needed. None. Works just like that. Even if you have a VPN. Imagine that...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

            It's not specific to science publication, it's all academic publication. History, economics, sociology - practically all publicly funded academic research is behind paywalls. What's different is that there is less public demand for humanties research (especially less demand from less developed countries that turn a blind eye to piracy) so the pirate sites have focused on science.

            1. NATTtrash

              Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

              "It's not specific to science publication, it's all academic publication."

              I humbly apologise for my egocentric rambling, you're right. I suppose it was the rising blood pressure and red haze...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

          Cornell University's has a lot of pre-publication drafts of scientific papers.

          "arXiv is a free distribution service and an open-access archive for 1,855,214 scholarly articles in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics. Materials on this site are not peer-reviewed by arXiv. "

        3. ibmalone

          Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

          Minor addendum:

          "Scientists do research - paid by the university" ... and charities and public funding bodies. (For all the others too.)

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

          Years ago I was in a society that published an archaeological journal. In its area it was the main journal in its area. It was where the local professionals would expect to publish. This was back in the days when the author's manuscript had to be type-set, no getting the author to provide a formatted publication-ready MS.

          We produced an annual volume with several excavation reports and other significant articles. We did this without the aid of any large publisher and all for an affordable annual subscription out of which we also ran monthly meetings for most of the year. Nowadays the production costs are even less. It's become a racket.

          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

            Quoth the Doctor: "In its area it was the main journal in its area."

            That's like the town near where I grew up, known to all as the centre of five miles round.

        5. goldcd

          Except a lot of hard research isn't paid for by the university.

          Huge amounts of time and effort is spent trying to attract funding - and then walking the fine line between what you want to research and what the money wants you to research.

          Additionally just 'publishing' is easy - you can fire up wordpress and do it for free yourself.

          Publishing in a respected journal is hard, as you've got to convince them what you've done is accurate, innovative and useful.

          Managing to get your work into a respected journal is what's going to keep you employed by the university, as it's what helps you bring in more money.

          Now I do agree that the system is slightly screwed up - but the alternative (everybody doing what they want and getting paid for it, and just dropping your results on your blog (and blocking the comments of your disagreeing peers) isn't the solution.

          1. rg287

            Re: Except a lot of hard research isn't paid for by the university.

            All of that is true.

            But... peer review is still broken. Academics are typically not paid (at least not by the publication) to review papers - that's considered to be part of their university-funded duties. Consequently, as "non-revenue" work it probably doesn't get the attention it deserves and might go some way to answering how The Lancet green-lit Wakefield's paper alleging a link between MMR and autism. Peer-review is not the be-all-and-end-all.

            It also explains how in 2019 Elsevier turned profits of €982 on revenue of €2.6Bn - a margin of 37%. Nice work if you can get it.

            As you say, Peer review is important and we don't want science to descend into Bob's blog vs. Jim's blog, but it needs to be done right, and it clearly isn't right now.

            The publishers need to start ponying up for the work that is done - such as review. It is patently ridiculous for them to charge thousands of pounds to accept papers for review and then expect academics to perform that review for free when there are obviously funds available for stipends or as a discount to institutions where reviewers work.

            They also need to publish more papers, particularly negative results. The idea of an issue having a set amount of space is somewhat arbitrary now that most people access papers digitally. We also know that selection bias and under-representation of negative results is a serious problem in scientific literature - particularly pharmaceuticals.

            And fundamentally they're not adding the value they claim to be. 37% profit margins are what the newspapers used to clear when they were the gatekeepers on news and advertising. Google/Facebook ate that lunch, and the only reason it hasn't happened to the journals is institutional inertia.

            1. Mark 65

              Re: Except a lot of hard research isn't paid for by the university.

              There is also the problem that, given the need to convince them what you have has merit to be published, they are acting as a gatekeeper to what gets published and hence can sway the narrative on research by not publishing papers with opposing views. Whilst you can't publish everything under the model that requires free peer review services you certainly don't want bias in the gatekeeping.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Except a lot of hard research isn't paid for by the university.

            It certainly isn't paid for by the publisher. They aren't the copyright holder, they charge the University for access.

            "Publishing in a respected journal is hard, as you've got to convince them what you've done is accurate, innovative and useful."

            *You've* got to convince... *You've* got to write the peer reviewed paper too. *You* do the science, *you* convince them. You even market it yourself by spreading the links. Yeh, sure they deserve it for all *their* hard work.... even if its not their copyright.

            This is curious, I see the publisher asserting copyright in that original case that the "American Chemical Society" won. That was a default judgement, the details were never examined, so I'm curious if they ever actually owned the copyright in the first place. Looking at the lawsuit:


            The publications are things like "CHEMICAL REVIEWS", which is one of these publishers listed.

            So lets look at that publication, pick an example:


            "Purchase Access"...

            So they definitely sell access to research papers like they own the copyright.

            Anyone care to ask what copyright that paper is under? Because I'm curious if they ever actually held the copyright they claimed in that lawsuit, or whether they just had the, [non exclusive], right to publish it.

            If they don't hold the copyright, its not theirs to sue for copyright violation.

            That paper I just checked is from King Research Group here:


            I don't have twitter.


            Ahhh, look at page 196 of the complaint, they're citing the TRADEMARK "Chemical Reviews", as if the IP violation is citing their name. Ha ha.

            Look, if you assert you own the copyright to someone elses work, and you charge for access to said works, on specious grounds, isn't that fraud, City of London "Police"?

            1. ibmalone

              Re: Except a lot of hard research isn't paid for by the university.

              Many journals require copyright assignment. As the author or coauthor you have to agree to a statement that transfers copyright to the journal before publication. Despite, as you say, having done the work, the writing and, unlike any other such arrangement, not getting getting a penny from them for it (in open access cases often paying them).

              However I'd certainly disagree with goldcd, the journal publishers themselves are not the arbiters of quality you believe them to be, that rests on unpaid peer review and academic editors. Prior to the scooping up of journals by the large publishers often they were run by the associated academic society itself (some of which morphed into giant publishers themselves). Scrape through the title of many of the big publishers and you'll certainly spot some journals which are less than persuasive in their contents. Conversely some influential papers in a few fields are still only on arxiv, not officially 'published'.

        6. Ian 55

          Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

          You forgot to mention the profit margin of the journals...

        7. gobaskof

          Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

          This list of things the university pays for misses "Gold Open Access" where some countries have decided we want all our papers to be open (good thing) so we use the same closed journals and page £2k-5k per paper to make it open. Still we do all the writing, most of the sodding copy editing, all the reviewing, most of the editing. And then we still have to pay when we want to see articles from other countries.

          Out library is cash strapped. We get emails regularly from our department "Open Access Champion"** telling us the budgets are spent please stop publishing in these sets of journals. I could skirt these journals on moral grounds but I did that earlier in my career and it really screwed me. But, when we don't have access to a paper, I am not going to do less/worse literature review. I am not going to give the bastards more money. I am going to use Sci-Hub. Via a VPN/proxy if the uni blocks it. Governments need to grow a spine, pull together and crowd out this cartel of arsehole publishers. Not protect them with copyright bullshit.

          The point about "strategically valuable" "never-for-public-access data and research"? I would rather chew my left bollock off than sign an NDA. I'm an academic. You want my data,even the pre published stuff? Send me an email. Want my code? Go to GitLab. Want a copy of my behind a paywall paper from pre Gold open access? Well, I might have to get my own paper from Sci-Hub if you want the final published version because good god I might not have it. But I can do that and email it to you. But it saves all of us time and energy if you just go to Sci-Hub.

          ** All departments must have an Open Access Champion. They pick someone who will champion verbatim repetition of bad news not actual action on open access.

    2. Chris G

      Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

      On more than one occasion, I have looked for articles that previously were available for free online, only to discover they had been pirated by the likes of Elsevier and others who are able to game search algorithms do that they show up at the top of a search and the free version is umpteen pages further away.

      If Scihub is rattling their cages, good on them, science anf human knowledge should be open and free.

      1. Yes Me Silver badge

        Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

        And this:

        Andrew Pitts, CEO of IP protection organisation PSI, said Sci-Hub exposes users to “potentially dangerous content from this illegal site and put[s] the security of their organisations at risk.”

        is a ludicrous statement. Because they are allegedly breaching copyright, their site is intrinsically dangerous compared, say, to What a pathetic argument. In fact, it's not an argument at all; many would say it's a lie. But then, what's Mr Pitts paid to do? Would he by any chance be paid to lie for the major publishers?

    3. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

      some copyright rules no longer reflect a wider societal consensus.

      Did they ever? These matters are dealt only by the ones interested in IP, common people are never involved or even listened.

      Changing duration to avoid IP falling in public domains, state agencies to 'protect' private rights paid by the taxpayers, all this happens without public consultation.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

      If the research was publicly funded then the papers should be publicly available. Putting Government funded research behind the paywall of an "academic publisher" should be a crime in itself.

    5. Mark 65

      Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

      City of London Police - the best force money can buy.

    6. MarkSitkowski

      Re: "data and research ... is ... more strategically valuable ... than copyright-busting"

      I (together with thousands of others) publish my stuff on Researchgate. Access to all work is free to all - even to non-members.

  2. YetAnotherJoeBlow


    The very existence of sci-hub itself is a testament to the sorry state of affairs that academia, and by extension industry, has become.

  3. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

    Managing and maintaining good and fair review is a real service. But you don't want the funding for that to depend completely on those who submit for review, for obvious reasons. Perhaps it could/should be funded at the national level - just like legal courts with (hopefully) unbiased judges are funded at the national level. It does work in the public interest.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Perhaps you could have some public funded institutions that housed researchers and published the results themselves, they could then swap these publications to other similar institutions around the world. Some sort of universal higher education institution - only with more latin

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is Sci-Hub perhaps publishing

    Scientific papers which are inconvenient for the City of London's Police's Political Masters?

    First they came for the Scientists.

    1. rg287

      Re: Is Sci-Hub perhaps publishing

      City of London have always been a patsy for the copyright industry. Their "beat" is a square mile with almost no residential property and most of the business property has private security, which leaves them with a lot of free time.

      Back when RIAA and others were chasing the Pirate Bay, it was CoL they went to with UK-based IP addresses and had them send people snotty letters threatening legal action.

      In fairness CoL have a national "cybercrime" mandate too, working with NCSC and leading projects like Cyber Aware and Action Fraud. The idea that people might share credentials with Sci-Hub which they've reused in other university systems is a legitimate concern. No doubt Elsevier & Springer are very keen to highlight the "dangers" as well though!

      1. Robin Bradshaw

        Re: Is Sci-Hub perhaps publishing

        In fairness the CoL havent exactly covered themselves in glory running Action Fraud:

        But then aslong as its individuals being defrauded and not one of their paymasters in the financial services industry they aren't going to care.

        1. nijam Silver badge

          Re: Is Sci-Hub perhaps publishing


          Ironic that the link is (mostly) behind a paywall...

  5. mihares

    Well deserved

    Back at the University, during my PhD years, my faculty (I think the University at large, but I never investigated) published everything as open access: whoever wanted to torture themselves to death reading about what we did, was able to do so without paying 30 unit of currency for a piece of very bad prose trying to tell you something interesting.

    It is mostly not so, though: people are expected and encouraged to link the articles, not only the press release, and read said articles —for 30 a pop, that might be feasible for journos of large newspapers, certainly not for individuals.

    Furthermore, if you still need such a thing like Sci-Hub and you are a student or a researcher, the University is not doing its job properly —for reasons that may vary from insufficient funding to general incompetence.

    Do you want Sci-Hub to go away? Don’t block it (thereby introducing a few more people to the arcane art of proxy), make knowledge freely (speech and beer) available to those who want it and can’t afford ludicrously expensive subscriptions.

    Until then, general hygiene: treat the internetZ like a sketchy late-night-post-pub relationship, use a condom and good passwords.

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Whatever would we do without the Streisand effect? Thanks, Barbra, for the Wind Beneath My Wings

    The site justifies its activities by claiming that paid access to research “effectively slow down the development of science in human society.”

    Whenever that claim is honestly true, calls for and activities undertaken to try and prevent access to the results of academic research are tantamount to crimes against humanity? Now that may sound a tad harsh but it impossible to dismiss as false. What are the City of London Police thinking and who be they servering?

    And that is research which is paid for by students themselves, and not by the universities at all, surely by virtue of the fees they are charged and obliged to pay to universities to keep them operating as a viable virtual business model harvesting privileged proprietary premium virgin information from prize big novel and noble question asking and solving students.

    Information and intelligence wants to be free and not held captive as a political prisoner or for political incorrect criminal ransom because it may so easily capture almighty hearts and minds .... and the smarter and more important and divisive the info and intel the greater the likelihood of that extremely exciting and exceedingly disruptive success. Humanity naturally wants to know what the future holds so to try and prevent that is certainly abnormal, perverse and corrupt.

    You can complicate that if you don't like what it says, with the introduction of a whole host of red herring to try muddy the waters of simple plain clear reason, but the facts still remain intact for all to see whether in the light of day or the dark of night.

    Now you might know why JA is held in Belmarsh, It being for nothing illegal which has been done but for everything he knows or is thought to know? Do you accept that as just or recognise it as wanton and blatant criminal abuse and misuse of system resources in defence of the indefensible?

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Whatever would we do without the Streisand effect? Thanks, Barbra, for the Wind Beneath My Wings

      What on earth does the self-confessed violent rapist Assange have to do with science? He's in jail for perverting the course of justice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whatever would we do without the Streisand effect? Thanks, Barbra, for the Wind Beneath My Wings

        Wow I would love to know what filter you are viewing the world through.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Whatever would we do without the Streisand effect? Thanks, Barbra, for the Wind Beneath My Wings

        Violent rapist? He's actually the closet thing the UK has to a bona fide political prisoner, held in a maximum security prison indefinitely on vague charges of endangering national security. Obviously part of the process of justifying this is to put it about that this person is a bad sort. Its one of the oldest tricks in the book, so old and hacknied that I'm surprised that anyone is still trying it, much less falling for it.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Whatever would we do without the Streisand effect? Thanks, Barbra, for the Wind Beneath My Wings

          Talking of political prisoners, it would seem that certain right dodgy authorities in Scotland are tempted to tempt revolution and a rerun of the appearance of civil disobedience and a new version of what is widely known everywhere where they have a global news supply as The Troubles, if they think that Big Brother is alive and well and safe and active in Scotland, and he can do as he pleases to please them without repercussions ......

          Why do politicians do that? Make themselves all manner of unknown enemies?

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge


            Oops! Are the natives revolting .......

            Temporary Blog Closure

            March 24, 2021 in Uncategorized by craig

            In view of our understanding that the High Court has found some articles on this blog to be in contempt of court, and in view of the fact that the Crown Office had sought to censor such a large range of articles, this blog has no choice but to go dark from 15.00 today until some time after tomorrow’s court hearing, when it will be specified to us precisely how much of the truth we have to expunge before we can bring the blog back up.

            This is a dark day for the entire team here. We will be looking to appeal this to the Supreme Court and if required (though we very much doubt it will be) to the European Court of Human Rights.

            Hmmm? Shades of 1984 .....

            “Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.” ― George Orwell, 1984

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whatever would we do without the Streisand effect? Thanks, Barbra, for the Wind Beneath My Wings

      It's pretty underhanded of you to try to give JA a free ride on Scihub by tacking his initials on in the last paragraph.

  7. sebacoustic

    Cyber protect officer Max Bruce further reminded his audience that editors should ensure quotes should be in a complete

  8. xyz Silver badge

    And at the other end of the scale...

    There is Research Gate. Trying to get anything out of them is just a joke unless you are well published in the first place. They know how to make you feel second class. Luckily their security is crap.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    children! terrrorists! illegal! dangerous! risk! threat! Russians! nukes! trolls! roubles!

    on the other hand... free! academic! research! unrestricted! fair! progress! unchained! knowledge!

    on the third hand... there really is a huge amount of non-academic literature there, so no moral leg to stand on either.

    on the fourth hand... it gives access to some publications that would easily cost you, and I'm being serious, almost £150 quid, and it's not some 17th century rarity or a volume blessed by a fuehrer's fingers, it's a (..) pdf compilation of materials from a conference that was held 6 years ago. So why this price tag? Well, because, silly! And good luck with inter-library loan on that item even in pre-pandemic times, so-called 'librarian's in public libraries would make it their personal mission to make sure there's no chance in hell, you'll EVER get this or any volume through their helpful support. Been there, done that a few times. So, middle finger to springer and their £150 price tag, hurrah for sci-hub. Maybe.

    1. Screwed

      Re: children! terrrorists! illegal! dangerous! risk! threat! Russians! nukes! trolls! roubles!

      For reasons related to health, I frequently wish to read items which are behind paywalls.

      The idea that individual health is being held to ransom - and at completely unaffordable prices - is despicable.

      Frequently you can find things like a single short letter published as a response to a paper from over a century ago that would cost tens of dollars to access. And at that point, we would often have absolutely no idea whether it would actually be of interest, or not.

      Vast numbers of papers are downloaded and passed around as PDFs in order to make them accessible. Sometimes by their authors.

      From time to time, papers are accessible prior to publication - often in draft with line numbers, etc. But as soon as they are published, they are chargeable. Hence I have many uncorrected proof versions of papers. Which will tend to propagate mistakes - from typos up - which were addressed in the final versions.

      Sometimes, I have even seen official guideline papers behind paywalls.

      Obviously there is a cost to providing the access, but PubMed Central (and EuropePMC) are sitting there providing fantastic access when the publisher allows.

      On top of all this, if papers are not accessible, they will not be adequately archived. All too many journals have disappeared taking their entire back catalogue offline. Although copies might still exist, finding them can be close to impossible.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: children! terrrorists! illegal! dangerous! risk! threat! Russians! nukes! trolls! roubles!

      "The site has also been tied to Russian intelligence services" - No, it's not been tied to the KGB, this is just a typical accusation with virtually zero evidence. These days, being accused quickly becomes "convicted" on social media.

      Should we be saying that The City of London Police are tied to rapes? That would be just as bad a statement but at least there is some evidence suggesting that it's true as far as social media goes.

    3. nijam Silver badge

      Re: children! terrrorists! illegal! dangerous! risk! threat! Russians! nukes! trolls! roubles!

      > children! terrorists! illegal! dangerous! risk! threat! Russians! nukes! trolls! roubles! Copyright! City of London Police!

      How much further can we go on?

  10. Elledan

    Not just Sci-Hub

    When doing literature research, I rarely use Sci-Hub. Most of the time I can get the paper directly from the researchers' ResearchGate page or (department) homepage. Either using Google Scholar or by directly googling the paper's title can more often than not get one the final version of the paper, with Nature markings or equivalent prominently visible.

    Other times I end up using the arXiv version, which usually does not differ much from the final, peer-reviewed version.

    I'd argue that there's incentive on the side of the researchers to get their paper out in public, as ultimately a researcher's career lives or dies by the number of citations their papers get. Restricting access to only (some) students and academics (assuming their university even has access to that particular journal), would seem rather counter to that notion.

    That said, I think that most academics can probably agree that torching down Elsevier would massively improve their respective fields.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Elsevier raided by PIPCU

    Most papers are released under Create Commons licenses, the NON-commercial CC BY-NC-ND license doesn't allow Elsevier charge for sharing the paper. Elsevier sell access to those papers. This is why PIPCU, the copyright enforcement of the City of London Police, raided Elsevier to seize all the illegally gained profits they've made from charging for access to papers they legally are not allowed to charge for. Over 10 billion seized from Elsevier for their copyright infringement.

    Just kidding.

    City of London police is a private police force for hire, they won't do that because nobody pays them enough to enforce the Creative Commons non-commercial license! They will, however, talk a load of shit about copyright if you pay them enough.

    "Elsevier illegally sold me a Creative Commons non-commercial licensed article....Today, Elsevier (RELX Group) illegally sold me a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licensed article: Colson, P. et al. HIV infection en route to endogenization: two cases. Clin Microbiol Infect 20, 1280-1288 (2014). I’m really not happy about it. I don’t think the research funders will be happy about it either. Especially not the authors (who are the copyright holders here)."

    Sci Hub can certainly host the Creative Commons ones. Elsevier has no special right to limit access to those papers.

    As to whether Elsevier is complying by charging for access to Creative Common licensed work, certainly not the CC BY-NC-ND ones, they don't allow it to be shared for commercial gain. Something Elsevier is trying to do. That blog entry is correct, they did charge him to read a paper that was under NON COMMERCIAL license. Something specifically disallowed by that license. If PIPCU was under an actual police force, I would expect them to enforce the law, not run a disinformation campaign.

    As for Elseviers own license, is that even a contract? Is there even a commercial exchange there?

    Dear scientists, did you actually PAY Elsevier to publish your paper? No? Did you receive payment or something equivalent from Elsevier? No? The peer review is done for free by your fellow scientists, that is not a service Elsevier is providing. So do you even have a contract with Elsevier? Even if you chose the "own license" is there an actual contract there?

    I see the previous article, in which someone who holds the copyright sued, and then Elsevier got a judgement piggy backing on that judgement, which they then leveraged into a blanket shut down, but ultimately it would be nice if the same was done to Elsevier for violating those Creative Commons non-commercial distribution agreements. This is the same case, someone not legally allowed to sell something, selling it. Surely their website should be shut down!

    1. ibmalone

      Re: Elsevier raided by PIPCU

      "Most papers are released under Create Commons licenses"

      Citation needed? I mean, I'd be perfectly happy with that, but I don't think it's true. We're increasingly expected by funders to publish open access, which is also a good move, but not quite the same thing, and to put our publications in our institutional repository (which I think is now a REF requirement). But, I still see plenty of copyright assignment forms for submissions, even when they're to open access journals. The legal standing for it seems really shaky with, as you point out, no normal form of restitution to authors, but I'm sure there's some way to wriggle out of that, maybe they'd argue that you get 'exposure' in exchange.

    2. Danny 2

      Re: Elsevier raided by PIPCU

      Two early-twentish English guys were hitting on my fiancee in an Amsterdam club, so we decided to have fun with them. I out-drank them, and she out-smoked them. They were in a bad way quickly, boasting and defenceless. They worked for Elsevier. What do you do there? Their 'Evil guffaw'. "We are not legally allowed to tell you but just say we monitor what everyone else does on the internet."

      GCHQ, I'm 100% sure. At the time I worked alongside folk who'd introduce themselves as from French Intelligence or British Intelligence or numerous other nations so I got to know the type, albeit sober.

      Obviously this is an anonymous anecdote but my advice is to treat Elsevier employees with extreme caution.

  12. Shak

    Didn't know much about this

    Until I watched this fabulous medlife crisis video:

    Scihub also covered, and I'm a little surprised that the article didn't lean more heavily into the published journal scam.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Let's not forget JStor. Back in the day a friend produced a very cheap (I'm not sure how it was produced but certainly not letter-press) archaeological magazine/journal. I wrote a few articles for it. I find that JStor have picked up copies, scanned then and now have them pay-walled. They weren't even the publishers. They certainly don't have my permission and my friend died tragically young, before the web let alone JStor was even thought of so they couldn't have had his either.

  14. Aaiieeee

    Surely the real issue is that a pirated paper may be subtly tampered with subsequent research based off that?

    It's odd to me that this is not the thrust of concern as it woud be legitimate.

    1. Screwed

      Is it likely?

      When I have had opportunity to access both versions (i.e. official and from "somewhere else"), there has never been the slightest hint of an intentional change. Only, sometimes, things like graphics being downgraded, or bits missed due to poor scanning, etc.

      Of course, it is possible. But so too could the publishers. And we might find it pretty hard to track down.

      1. ibmalone

        I'm not often corresponding author, but I distinctly remember one paper where, at the proofs stage (after acceptance), the copy for approval came back with one real word systematically replaced with another that wasn't in the dictionary (English or American). So even the tampering is not out of the question. (In hindsight, my suspicious mind wonders if this isn't a way of introducing subtle new copyrightable aspects.)

      2. Barking mad

        Many cybersecurity incidents result from someone saying "is that likely'? Who cares how likely it is if someone will make an important decision based on something they read in a paper they trusted.

    2. nijam Silver badge

      > Surely the real issue is that a pirated paper may be subtly tampered with subsequent research based off that?

      Not necessarily a problem, given that funding bodies often "steer" the research, or the publication of results, in the first place.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just go to your local library

    Hmm... Sometimes it's good to ask "So, how did we do this before the Internet"?

    You can access most journals at your local library. That's what libraries are for: allowing you access to copyrighted books without buying them. Heck we even have copyright libraries that have a copy of every book.

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Just go to your local library

      Nonsense, these are highly specialised publications you won't find in many non-academic libraries.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Re: Just go to your local library

        No, Dave, clearly you wouldn't expect your town library to have a copy of every journal in the world, but the British Library does. Have a copy, I mean, not the expectation.

        The BL acquisition policy for their journal collection is to subscribe to every periodical publication worldwide, with very few exceptions.

        The BL also operates an Inter-Library Loans scheme, and most UK municipal libraries do participate, although they may charge you for expenses.

        1. ibmalone

          Re: Just go to your local library

          The British Library is only the local library for a handful of people who live around Pentonville Road.

          I've just checked, and ordering an electronic copy of an article from NeuroImage as a private individual I get quoted a cost of £50.

          So, accessible then.

          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            Re: Just go to your local library

            £50 a pop, and that for an electronic copy. I'm sorry to hear that, because when I was more closely involved with library services, admittedly a long time ago, it was much more affordable to get a photocopy of a printed journal article from the BL. One had to apply using a preprinted form, which BL sold to participating libraries in boxes of 25 or 50, IIRC, and sometimes the library didn't even pass on the charge. I suppose it's fair to say that UK public library funding has been cut to and through the bone since those days.

    2. Screwed

      Re: Just go to your local library

      What nonsense to suggest in a time when libraries are largely closed!

      The nearest decent size library to me is probably an hour and a half drive - and I'd have to make sure I have access as it is in another county.

      I might as well go to my nearest copyright library - which is only a little further away - but again, access is an issue.

      And with the nature of these papers, you can't just read them in half an hour and leave. You need to make copies so that you can go back and forth, and check out references, tables of data, figures.

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Just go to your local library

      Books != papers.

      And expecting my tiny local library to stock *every* journal and *every* edition of it is preposterous. Even large university libraries don't (not just because of space, but also because of the insane cost of said journals).

      So please, sit down, shut up and think a bit about the stupidity of your comment.

      1. Alan Edwards

        Re: Just go to your local library

        > And expecting my tiny local library to stock *every* journal and *every* edition of it is preposterous

        No, but if there isn't a system in place for a recognised library to say "Hey guys, can I borrow a copy of (x) to lend out" there ought to be. It's kinda what they're there for.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just go to your local library

          Sure they have borrowing services, but regular libraries just flat out don't subscribe to uber-expensive research papers. Even Universities don't allow you to borrow them and take them home; you have to take copies of the relevant pages *in* *the* *library* and take them home with you to study.

        2. Volker Weißmann

          Re: Just go to your local library

          You got to be kidding me.

          There is no way that telling your library "Hey guys, can I borrow a copy of (x) to lend?" is as fast as copy-pasting a link into sci-hub.

    4. Screwed

      Re: Just go to your local library

      If we are allowed to access the papers by going to a library, especially if we are able to make copies while there, what does Sci-Hub do?

      All it does is make it possible for many who for numerous reasons cannot get the papers at their local library. And make it more convenient for those who could.

      Imagine someone offering a service of going to a library on you behalf. And, by having a headcam (or whatever), enabling you to see what they are looking at. Difficult to argue that would be criminal. Especially if the person paying for the service is disabled and could not themselves go to the library.

    5. Volker Weißmann

      Re: Just go to your local library

      Is that a joke?

      Copy-Pasting a link into Sci-Hub: 10 seconds

      Driving to my local library and back: 90 minutes.

  16. anothercynic Silver badge

    SciHub vs publishers

    Academics the world over have complained time and again that people like Elsivier charge an arm and a leg for access to papers that are meant to be open data to start with. Many science fields expect papers to be open data, funders like the NIH and NSC in the US and the EU commission also require research funded by them to be that.

    SciHub just busts the Elsivier publishing model wide open by making stuff available that *should* already be available. Clearly someone's gotten upset at that. Aww, cry, boohoo.

    1. Spanners Silver badge

      Re: SciHub vs publishers

      >...Clearly someone's gotten upset at that. Aww, cry, boohoo

      The problem is "that someone" has (A) a lot of money and (B) some VERY powerful friends.

      As soon as I see someone talking about copyright "theft", I have to wonder if they are about as unbiased and logical about that as, say, Nigel Farage is about immigrants or the pentagon is about exposure of its criminal behaviour.

  17. Muppet Boss

    >... Sci-Hub exposes users to “potentially dangerous content from this illegal site ...”

    Sure, it's called knowledge.

  18. Golgafrinch

    This racket has gone too far

    Forty years ago the price for a reprint was between $1.50 and $3.50, depending on the journal. Nowadays it averages out to about thirty bucks. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I notice that Elsevier is more profitable than Novartis' pharma division. Houston, we have a problem. And all the power to Sci-Hub.

  19. heyrick Silver badge

    "because plenty of universities conduct research for in collaboration with private clients and/or government agencies"

    While that's all good and probably true, how much of the research is performed using taxpayer money, with the results and information then tossed behind a paywall so one company can go kerching while everybody else suffers?

    I have no particular feelings on SciHub, but fuck Elsevier.

  20. JoeCool Bronze badge

    Motivation ? Sources ?

    The article ends with a quote from the CEO of an IP protection organisation warning about the security of a competeing org's site.

    I don't think that comment can be accepted as factual without corroboration from someone less potentially conflicted. It seems premature to conclude that "The Register fancies that last epithet about organisational security is as important as the general warning".

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The City of London Police, which has responsibility for intellectual property crime across the UK


    1. DevOpsTimothyC

      Because there are some parts of the law which requires specialist units.

      The City of London Police deal with all or most online and financial crime (apart from stalking cases)

      1. nijam Silver badge

        > The City of London Police deal with all or most online and financial crime

        Or as was pointed out by a previous commentard, "...doesn't deal with..."

    2. nijam Silver badge

      > The City of London Police, which has responsibility for intellectual property crime across the UK

      Given the relationship with Elsevier and its ilk, should that read "is responsible for"?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Middle men

    The advent of the Internet and the capability for anyone to publish and duplicate at zero cost spelled the end of the justification for the existence of middle men like Elsevier (and the music distribution middle men).

    The reaction to the business models of many companies founded on artificial scarcity becoming null and void was telling in the extreme. Faced with their entire reason to be evaporating, these companies took advantage of the fact that our governments are utterly corrupt to ensure that laws were passed which are designed purely to prop up their outdated business models and nothing else.

    The companies who wanted these laws make enormous amounts of money from their monopolies on publishing and distribution. Armed with such huge war chests, bribing their way to having their outdated business models defended in law was easily achieved. The money and power hungry politicians were so excited by the cash trough in front of them that they didn't even blink before passing laws to criminalise any who dared to challenge the monopolies.

    And here we are today, burdened by utterly unrealistic copyright durations and with monstrous legislation like the DMCA which ostensibly exists only so that the copyright mafia can demand that you buy multiple copies of something if you want to use their products in more than one setting. This gives us the preposterous situation where a music publisher thinks that making an MP3 of a CD which you have bought so that you can listen to the MP3 in your car should be illegal and expect you to buy multiple copies of things you have already paid for just because you want to shift format. That this legislation is also used against people who are (for example) blind and very much need to be able to format shift is a travesty.

    In the end, it's all about greed and a political class who (as always) serve the rich and not those who elect them.

  23. Abbas
    Thumb Up

    God bless you, Alexandra!

    Scientist here, 25+ year doing basic and applied research.

    Sci-Hub user, nearly daily. It's a fantastic source of information, including (but not restricted to) plenty of old to very old technical books, that despite its age are true jewels. If it's a treasure for me, in the first world, what is to the less fortunate researchers in 3/4 of the world?

    Long live, health, happiness and success for you, Alexandra Elbakyan!

    1. hoola Silver badge

      Re: God bless you, Alexandra!

      When I read the article on the BBC the issue appears to be that the site is harvesting credentials and information, not necessarily the content.

      Regardless of the different vies around with SciHub is legal in what is is doing with these papers, if as is being alleged, they are acting nefariously in harvesting and then selling information given to them to access these papers that is clearly wrong.

      If these are just allegations because it is considered a "Pirate" website then there needs to be some more detailed follow up to prove or disprove it.

      1. Volker Weißmann

        Re: God bless you, Alexandra!

        I wrote an email to the London police if there is any evidence for anything. I will tell you if I get an answer.

        My two cents: The London police just made it all up.

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Long John Silver

    Which would you rather do?

    Obtain information the 'official way' or circumvent a set of irritating and time-consuming obstacles?

    Sit at home, in the office, or anywhere else, with your PC or laptop and gain instant access to a publication that takes your fancy (e.g. a citation in what you are reading at the time) and study it whilst fresh in your mind or login to your institution's library and follow what may be lengthy procedure to get it? If the paper, book, letter, or whatever, is not held in the library do you initiate a request for it to be loaned from elsewhere or perhaps seek it by disapproved means?

    If you are not affiliated with an institution likely to hold what you want do you cough up money to a rentier, work around paywalls, or give up?

    1. ibmalone

      Re: Which would you rather do?

      "login to your institution's library and follow what may be lengthy procedure to get it?"

      Generally, if you have an institutional subscription, this is now a very streamlined process. The publisher usually has a 'access via my institution' button and you authenticate through shibboleth or openathens, no need to go through your library site in most cases. (The more annoying ones are those that instead check institutional IP, so with things as they are have to be accessed via VPN.)

  27. Long John Silver

    Desperation of copyright rentiers?

    Recently there has been change of emphasis by copyright rentiers in their rearguard fight to convince people of rentiers' inalienable 'right' to own, almost in perpetuity, ideas and their digital representation.

    Regarding popular entertainment (recorded music, TV shows, film, books, etc.) the argument has shifted away from the foolish mantra "copying is theft", from worry over artistes denied bread for their children, from issuing dire threats of legal action (easily avoided) against individuals illicitly accessing rentier 'content, and from claiming creative accountancy 'losses' indicate collapse of entire industries, to issuing 'public spirited' warnings of dangers arising from coming into contact with an international criminal underworld.

    Attention is drawn to malware pre-installed on devices allegedly designed for streaming illicit 'content', to credit card fraud, and to involvement of organised crime in copyright infringement with implication that persons aiding criminals by using their services are participants in drug running, child prostitution, human trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, and all other things bad: scare tactics.

    PIPCU, not exactly the most on the ball police force in the UK, has latched onto this in general sense and is now applying it to the academic malfeasance of not paying through the nose to access the 'high culture' end of human collective achievement. Unfortunately for PIPCU the message that accessing Sci-Hub, LibGen, and similar, poses risk of exposure to malware, to hacking university computer systems, and to Russians stealing industrial secrets, is risible to the target audience.

    For some time I have maintained the concept of 'intellectual property', other perhaps than applied to trademarks and brands, has been revealed in this digital age as specious and inherently not enforceable. My belief is that copyright shall collapse first in its application to academia. There is simple reason for this based on two factors. First, the nature of the people being scammed by rentiers. Second, clear distinction between medium and message; that is the rentiers have control only over distribution (medium); they have no ownership of the ideas (message) they disseminate or control over 'derivation' from those ideas; indeed, derivation is the lifeblood of academic endeavour, the only sin being plagiarism (i.e. denying attribution to the rightful persons).

    That medium and message are separable in general sense was established by introduction of digital encoding when it became obvious the message (indefinitely replicable) was not tied to particular instances of a physical medium. The medium might possess scarcity - an essential feature in market-economics for setting price - but the message does not.

    This carries over to all digitally encodable culture. Importantly, it shows the dangerously restrictive nature of the comprehensive copyright (medium and message) applied beyond the realm of academic output. Ideas, whether represented in prose, musical composition, or film, mainly do not arise ab initio but rather as drawing upon one or more predecessors. Where would academia be if 'derivation' (with attribution) required permission and perhaps payment of a fee or continuing share of rental (royalties) arising?

    Copyright stultifies culture and/or access to it across the board. Derivation is the stuff of creativity.

    Digital representation and the Internet free the creative from dependence on a host of middlemen claiming 'rights' which can be traded. What is marketable is imagination and skills to realise it. Individuals and groups can compete for patronage. Reputation is the underlying commodity. Reputation rather than end-products - these if of digital nature not subject to market-economics and hence of zero monetary value - is what requires protection in law. False representation of being originator of an idea can lead to fraudulently gaining patronage. Attribution is all.

    Cultural renaissance awaits after copyright and patents are binned.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Desperation of copyright rentiers?

      One area where we have seen the effects of rentiers is the publication of sheet music. Before the Internet and laser peinters / photocopiers reproducing music was an expensive process which might have justified the high prices but as technology improved instead of the buisness model changing the environment became more and more restrictive. As distribution of out of copyright editions (most classical music) became more widespread the publishers had to drop their prices to match something like the actual cost of production of the scores. Having access to archives not only made scores cheaper but also widened access, you were not restricted to what the publisher made money from.

      (Now the copyright bear pit is popular music. Renting out 'samples' is the money spinner.....soon they'll be claiming copyright on individual notes....)

      Scientific publishing needs the same kind of push.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...cyber protect officer..."


  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How do you know you can trust the papers on SciHub?

    You read a paper is because it reports research work. You trust the authors, the peer review process and the site you got the paper from.

    If you read a copy from an unauthorized site, how do you know it hasn't been edited? The conclusions changed? Reported data altered?

    A very efficient way to distort science.

    1. jtaylor

      Re: How do you know you can trust the papers on SciHub?

      You read a paper is because it reports research work. You trust the authors, the peer review process and the site you got the paper from.

      Ironically, I learned almost the opposite in science courses. (I'm not a scientist, but I met one* once.)

      You become familiar with a particular field, so that when you read this paper, you have the knowledge and context to think critically. You hope the authors were honest and rigorous (reputation does help). You understand that the peer review process is useful but imperfect.

      *"You may have proven it to yourself. You may have proven it to someone else. You didn't prove it to me." was a quote chosen by his grad students when he retired.

    2. nijam Silver badge

      Re: How do you know you can trust the papers on SciHub?


      If you read a copy from an authorized site, how do you know it hasn't been edited? The conclusions changed? Reported data altered?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is all about the money, and nothing more.

    Things are out of control. The copyright holders of all kinds are having sites blocked as "infection sources" or "malware sources" when they aren't, but having them so flagged means Google will automatically block it unless you go through hoops.

    I'm sick of American interests interfering with a GLOBAL resource. The time when they should have been manager of this international resource is long past; they're ABUSING their control - badly.

  31. Volker Weißmann

    The police made that up

    The police could not present a shred of evidence that they didn't just made it up.

    Blocking for cyber security reasons is COMPLETE BS.

  32. hayzoos

    Copyright is not

    Copyright is not about making money on on Intellectual Property, in spite of what so many greedy highly profitable organizations peddling copyrighted work would have you believe.

    Copyright grants the IP creator exclusive right to each and every copy of their IP work with a few specifically excluded fair use exceptions. The intent was to allow creative types to earn a living. Benefit to the public was creative works which may not be if the creator had to do something else to earn a living.

    There is no requirement that a copy of copyrighted work be compensated monetarily. Lack of monetary compensation does not turn a copyrighted work into public domain.

    Creative Commons licenses are for copyrighted works. In fact, CC licenses are not worth a damn without copyright. If Elsevier has in fact sold a copy of a CC non-comercial licenses work, they have committed a copyright violation. The seriousness of that violation is just as much as any violation they may claim somebody else has made by copying a copyrighted work licensed for monetary compensation.

    Sci-Hub is acting like a Robin Hood, questionable means for a noble goal. Legally, wrong. Esevier is also using questionable means for a um..., goal. Potentially, legally wrong or just wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right, three lefts do.

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