Many researchers, however, can't function properly without the notorious site.
Since anti-piracy efforts are unlikely to beat the site,
Sci-Hub has often been
referred to as "The Pirate Bay of Science," but that description
really sells the site short.
Elsevier previously convinced the courts that Sci-Hub is a force of 'evil.'
Many scientists, however, see it as an extremely useful tool. This was illustrated once again by a 'letter to the editor' Dr. Prasanna R. Deshpande sent to the Journal of Health & Allied Sciences recently.
While Deshpande works at the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at Poona College of Pharmacy, his latest writing is entirely dedicated to copyright and Sci-Hub.
In his published letter (no paywall), the researcher explains,
The Indian researcher points out that Sci-Hub's main advantage is that it's free of charge. This is particularly important for academics in developing countries, who otherwise don't have the means to access crucial articles.
Sci-Hub actually allows these people to carry out better research.
Aside from the cost issue, Sci-hub is often seen as more convenient as well.
Many professors use the site and a recent survey found that it's used to conduct research by 62.5% of all medical students across six countries in Latin America.
According to Deshpande, these and other arguments lead to the conclusion that Sci-Hub should be supported, at least until there is a good alternative.
This is of course just the opinion of one researcher, but the web is riddled with similar examples.
The major publishers are obviously not happy with this.
Aside from lawsuits against Sci-Hub, they regularly send takedown notices to sites that link to infringing articles, including Google.
Recently Elsevier took it a step further by going after Citationsy, a tool that allows academics and researchers to manage citations and reference lists.
The service previously published a blog post summing up some options for people to download free research articles.
This blog post also linked to Sci-Hub.
Elsevier clearly didn't like this, and sent its lawyer after Citationsy, requesting it to remove the link.
Citantionsy founder Cenk Özbakır initially wasn't sure how to respond.
Linking to a website isn't necessarily copyright infringement. However, challenging a multi-billion dollar company on an issue like this is a battle that's hard to win.
Eventually, Özbakır decided to remove it, pointing to a Google search instead.
However, not without being rather critical of the move by Elsevier and its law firm Bird & Bird.
While not all researchers are unanimously backing Sci-Hub, it appears that this type of enforcement may not be the best way forward.
Pressuring people with cease and desist notices, filing lawsuits, and sending takedown notices certainly isn't sustainable in the long term, especially if they target people in the academic community.
Perhaps Elsevier and other publishers should use the massive popularity of Sci-Hub as a signal that something is clearly wrong with what they are offering.
Instead of trying to hide piracy by sweeping it under the rug, Elsevier could learn from it and adapt...