Complaint: Elsevier v. SciHub and LibGen

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Index No. 15-cv-4282 (RWS)




Plaintiffs Elsevier Inc, Elsevier B.V., and Elsevier Ltd. (collectively “Elsevier”),
by their attorneys DeVore & DeMarco LLP, for their complaint against,, Alexandra Elbakyan, and John Does 1-99 (collectively the “Defendants”),
allege as follows:


1. This is a civil action seeking damages and injunctive relief for: (1) copyright infringement under the copyright laws of the United States (17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.); and (2) violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18.U.S.C. § 1030, based upon Defendants’ unlawful access to, use, reproduction, and distribution of Elsevier’s copyrighted works. Defendants’ actions in this regard have caused and continue to cause irreparable injury to Elsevier and its publishing partners (including scholarly societies) for which it publishes certain journals.


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2. Plaintiff Elsevier Inc. is a corporation organized under the laws of Delaware, with its principal place of business at 360 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10010.

3. Plaintiff Elsevier B.V. is a corporation organized under the laws of the Netherlands, with its principal place of business at Radarweg 29, Amsterdam, 1043 NX, Netherlands.

4. Plaintiff Elsevier Ltd. is a corporation organized under the laws of the United Kingdom, with its principal place of business at 125 London Wall, EC2Y 5AS United Kingdom.

5. Upon information and belief, Defendant Sci-Hub is an individual or organization engaged in the operation of the website accessible at the URL “,” and related subdomains, including but not limited to the subdomain “,”,” “,” and various subdomains
incorporating the company and product names of other major global publishers (collectively with the “Sci-Hub Website”). The domain name is registered by
“Fundacion Private Whois,” located in Panama City, Panama, to an unknown registrant. As of
the date of this filing, the Sci-Hub Website is assigned the IP address This IP address is part of a range of IP addresses assigned to Petersburg Internet Network Ltd., a webhosting company located in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

6. Upon information and belief, Defendant Library Genesis Project is an organization which operates an online repository of copyrighted materials accessible through the website located at the URL “” as well as a number of other “mirror” websites
(collectively the “Libgen Domains”). The domain is registered by “Whois Privacy
Corp.,” located at Ocean Centre, Montagu Foreshore, East Bay Street, Nassau, New Providence,


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Bahamas, to an unknown registrant. As of the date of this filing, is assigned the IP address This IP address is part of a range of IP addresses assigned to Ecatel Ltd., a web-hosting company located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

7. The Libgen Domains include “,” “,” “,” and “”

8. Upon information and belief, Defendant Alexandra Elbakyan is the principal owner and/or operator of Sci-Hub. Upon information and belief, Elbakyan is a resident of Almaty, Kazakhstan.

9. Elsevier is unaware of the true names and capacities of the individuals named as Does 1-99 in this Complaint (together with Alexandra Elbakyan, the “Individual Defendants”),
and their residence and citizenship is also unknown. Elsevier will amend its Complaint to allege the names, capacities, residence and citizenship of the Doe Defendants when their identities are learned.

10. Upon information and belief, the Individual Defendants are the owners and operators of numerous of websites, including Sci-Hub and the websites located at the various
Libgen Domains, and a number of e-mail addresses and accounts at issue in this case.

11. The Individual Defendants have participated, exercised control over, and benefited from the infringing conduct described herein, which has resulted in substantial harm to
the Plaintiffs.


12. This is a civil action arising from the Defendants’ violations of the copyright laws of the United States (17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.) and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”),


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18.U.S.C. § 1030. Therefore, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

13. Upon information and belief, the Individual Defendants own and operate computers and Internet websites and engage in conduct that injures Plaintiff in this district, while
also utilizing instrumentalities located in the Southern District of New York to carry out the acts complained of herein.

14. Defendants have affirmatively directed actions at the Southern District of New York by utilizing computer servers located in the District without authorization and by
unlawfully obtaining access credentials belonging to individuals and entities located in the
District, in order to unlawfully access, copy, and distribute Elsevier's copyrighted materials
which are stored on Elsevier’s ScienceDirect platform.

Defendants have committed the acts complained of herein through unauthorized

access to Plaintiffs’ copyrighted materials which are stored and maintained on computer servers
located in the Southern District of New York.

Defendants have undertaken the acts complained of herein with knowledge that

such acts would cause harm to Plaintiffs and their customers in both the Southern District of
New York and elsewhere. Defendants have caused the Plaintiff injury while deriving revenue
from interstate or international commerce by committing the acts complained of herein.
Therefore, this Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendants.

Venue in this District is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because a substantial

part of the events giving rise to Plaintiffs’ claims occurred in this District and because the
property that is the subject of Plaintiffs’ claims is situated in this District.


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Elsevier’s Copyrights in Publications on ScienceDirect

Elsevier is a world leading provider of professional information solutions in the

Science, Medical, and Health sectors. Elsevier publishes, markets, sells, and licenses academic
textbooks, journals, and examinations in the fields of science, medicine, and health. The
majority of Elsevier’s institutional customers are universities, governmental entities, educational
institutions, and hospitals that purchase physical and electronic copies of Elsevier’s products and
access to Elsevier’s digital libraries. Elsevier distributes its scientific journal articles and book
chapters electronically via its proprietary subscription database “ScienceDirect”
( In most cases, Elsevier holds the copyright and/or exclusive
distribution rights to the works available through ScienceDirect. In addition, Elsevier holds
trademark rights in “Elsevier,” “ScienceDirect,” and several other related trade names.

The ScienceDirect database is home to almost one-quarter of the world's peer-

reviewed, full-text scientific, technical and medical content. The ScienceDirect service features
sophisticated search and retrieval tools for students and professionals which facilitates access to
over 10 million copyrighted publications. More than 15 million researchers, health care
professionals, teachers, students, and information professionals around the globe rely on
ScienceDirect as a trusted source of nearly 2,500 journals and more than 26,000 book titles.

Authorized users are provided access to the ScienceDirect platform by way of

non-exclusive, non-transferable subscriptions between Elsevier and its institutional customers.
According to the terms and conditions of these subscriptions, authorized users of ScienceDirect
must be users affiliated with the subscriber (e.g., full-time and part-time students, faculty, staff


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and researchers of subscriber universities and individuals using computer terminals within the
library facilities at the subscriber for personal research, education or other non-corporate use.)

A substantial portion of American research universities maintain active

subscriptions to ScienceDirect. These subscriptions, under license, allow the universities to
provide their faculty and students access to the copyrighted works within the ScienceDirect

Elsevier stores and maintains the copyrighted material available in ScienceDirect

on servers owned and operated by a third party whose servers are located in the Southern District
of New York and elsewhere. In order to optimize performance, these third-party servers
collectively operate as a distributed network which serves cached copies of Elsevier’s
copyrighted materials by way of particular servers that are geographically close to the user. For
example, a user that accesses ScienceDirect from a University located in the Southern District of
New York will likely be served that content from a server physically located in the District.

Authentication of Authorized University ScienceDirect Users

Elsevier maintains the integrity and security of the copyrighted works accessible

on ScienceDirect by allowing only authenticated users access to the platform. Elsevier
authenticates educational users who access ScienceDirect through their affiliated university’s
subscription by verifying that they are able to access ScienceDirect from a computer system or
network previously identified as belonging to a subscribing university.

Elsevier does not track individual educational users’ access to ScienceDirect.

Instead, Elsevier verifies only that the user has authenticated access to a subscribing university.

Once an educational user authenticates his computer with ScienceDirect on a

university network, that computer is permitted access to ScienceDirect for a limited amount of

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time without re-authenticating. For example, a student could access ScienceDirect from their
laptop while sitting in a university library, then continue to access ScienceDirect using that
laptop from their dorm room later that day. After a specified period of time has passed, however,
a user will have to re-authenticate his or her computer’s access to ScienceDirect by connecting to
the platform through a university network.

As a matter of practice, educational users access university networks, and thereby

authenticate their computers with ScienceDirect, primarily through one of two methods. First,
the user may be physically connected to a university network, for example by taking their
computer to the university’s library. Second, the user may connect remotely to the university’s
network using a proxy connection. Universities offer proxy connections to their students and
faculty so that those users may access university computing resources – including access to
research databases such as ScienceDirect – from remote locations which are unaffiliated with the
university. This practice facilitates the use of ScienceDirect by students and faculty while they
are at home, travelling, or otherwise off-campus.
Defendants’ Unauthorized Access to University Proxy Networks to Facilitate Copyright

Upon information and belief, Defendants are reproducing and distributing

unauthorized copies of Elsevier’s copyrighted materials, unlawfully obtained from
ScienceDirect, through Sci-Hub and through various websites affiliated with the Library Genesis
Project. Specifically, Defendants utilize their websites located at and at the Libgen
Domains to operate an international network of piracy and copyright infringement by
circumventing legal and authorized means of access to the ScienceDirect database. Defendants’
piracy is supported by the persistent intrusion and unauthorized access to the computer networks


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of Elsevier and its institutional subscribers, including universities located in the Southern District
of New York.

Upon information and belief, Defendants have unlawfully obtained and continue

to unlawfully obtain student or faculty access credentials which permit proxy connections to
universities which subscribe to ScienceDirect, and use these credentials to gain unauthorized
access to ScienceDirect.

Upon information and belief, Defendants have used and continue to use such

access credentials to authenticate access to ScienceDirect and, subsequently, to obtain
copyrighted scientific journal articles therefrom without valid authorization.

The Sci-Hub website requires user interaction in order to facilitate its illegal

copyright infringement scheme. Specifically, before a Sci-Hub user can obtain access to
copyrighted scholarly journals, articles, and books that are maintained by ScienceDirect, he must
first perform a search on the Sci-Hub page. A Sci-Hub user may search for content using either
(a) a general keyword-based search, or (b) a journal, article or book identifier (such as a Digital
Object Identifier, PubMed Identifier, or the source URL).

When a user performs a keyword search on Sci-Hub, the website returns a proxied

version of search results from the Google Scholar search database. 1 When a user selects one of
the search results, if the requested content is not available from the Library Genesis Project, SciHub unlawfully retrieves the content from ScienceDirect using the access previously obtained.
Sci-Hub then provides a copy of that article to the requesting user, typically in PDF format. If,
however, the requested content can be found in the Library Genesis Project repository, upon


Google Scholar provides its users the capability to search for scholarly literature, but does not provide the
full text of copyrighted scientific journal articles accessible through paid subscription services such as
ScienceDirect. Instead, Google Scholar provides bibliographic information concerning such articles along with a
link to the platform through which the article may be purchased or accessed by a subscriber.


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information and belief, Sci-Hub obtains the content from the Library Genesis Project repository
and provides that content to the user.

When a user searches on Sci-Hub for an article available on ScienceDirect using a

journal or article identifier, the user is redirected to a proxied version of the ScienceDirect page
where the user can download the requested article at no cost. Upon information and belief, SciHub facilitates this infringing conduct by using unlawfully-obtained access credentials to
university proxy servers to establish remote access to ScienceDirect through those proxy servers.
If, however, the requested content can be found in the Library Genesis Project repository, upon
information and belief, Sci-Hub obtains the content from it and provides it to the user.

Upon information and belief, Sci-Hub engages in no other activity other than the

illegal reproduction and distribution of digital copies of Elsevier’s copyrighted works and the
copyrighted works of other publishers, and the encouragement, inducement, and material
contribution to the infringement of the copyrights of those works by third parties – i.e., the users
of the Sci-Hub website.

Upon information and belief, in addition to the blatant and rampant infringement

of Elsevier’s copyrights as described above, the Defendants have also used the Sci-Hub website
to earn revenue from the piracy of copyrighted materials from ScienceDirect. Sci-Hub has at
various times accepted funds through a variety of payment processors, including PayPal,
Yandex, WebMoney, QiQi, and Bitcoin.
Sci-Hub’s Use of the Library Genesis Project as a Repository for Unlawfully-Obtained
Scientific Journal Articles and Books

Upon information and belief, when Sci-Hub pirates and downloads an article from

ScienceDirect in response to a user request, in addition to providing a copy of that article to that
user, Sci-Hub also provides a duplicate copy to the Library Genesis Project, which stores the

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article in a database accessible through the Internet. Upon information and belief, the Library
Genesis Project is designed to be a permanent repository of this and other illegally obtained

Upon information and belief, in the event that a Sci-Hub user requests an article

which has already been provided to the Library Genesis Project, Sci-Hub may provide that user
access to a copy provided by the Library Genesis Project rather than re-download an additional
copy of the article from ScienceDirect. As a result, Defendants Sci-Hub and Library Genesis
Project act in concert to engage in a scheme designed to facilitate the unauthorized access to and
wholesale distribution of Elsevier’s copyrighted works legitimately available on the
ScienceDirect platform.
The Library Genesis Project’s Unlawful Distribution of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Works

Access to the Library Genesis Project’s repository is facilitated by the website

“,” which provides its users the ability to search, download content from, and upload
content to, the repository. The main page of allows its users to perform searches in
various categories, including “LibGen (Sci-Tech),” and “Scientific articles.” In addition to
searching by keyword, users may also search for specific content by various other fields,
including title, author, periodical, publisher, or ISBN or DOI number.

The website indicates that the Library Genesis Project repository

contains approximately 1 million “Sci-Tech” documents and 40 million scientific articles. Upon
information and belief, the large majority of these works is subject to copyright protection and is
being distributed through the Library Genesis Project without the permission of the applicable
rights-holder. Upon information and belief, the Library Genesis Project serves primarily, if not


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exclusively, as a scheme to violate the intellectual property rights of the owners of millions of
copyrighted works.

Upon information and belief, Elsevier owns the copyrights in a substantial

number of copyrighted materials made available for distribution through the Library Genesis
Project. Elsevier has not authorized the Library Genesis Project or any of the Defendants to
copy, display, or distribute through any of the complained of websites any of the content stored
on ScienceDirect to which it holds the copyright. Among the works infringed by the Library
Genesis Project are the “Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology,” and the article “The
Varus Ankle and Instability” (published in Elsevier’s journal “Foot and Ankle Clinics of North
America”), each of which is protected by Elsevier’s federally-registered copyrights.

In addition to the Library Genesis Project website accessible at, users

may access the Library Genesis Project repository through a number of “mirror” sites accessible
through other URLs. These mirror sites are similar, if not identical, in functionality to Specifically, the mirror sites allow their users to search and download materials from
the Library Genesis Project repository.
(Direct Infringement of Copyright)

Elsevier incorporates by reference the allegations contained in paragraphs 1-40


Elsevier’s copyright rights and exclusive distribution rights to the works available


on ScienceDirect (the “Works”) are valid and enforceable.

Defendants have infringed on Elsevier’s copyright rights to these Works by

knowingly and intentionally reproducing and distributing these Works without authorization.


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The acts of infringement described herein have been willful, intentional, and

purposeful, in disregard of and indifferent to Plaintiffs’ rights.

Without authorization from Elsevier, or right under law, Defendants are directly

liable for infringing Elsevier’s copyrighted Works pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§ 106(1) and/or (3).

As a direct result of Defendants’ actions, Elsevier has suffered and continues to

suffer irreparable harm for which Elsevier has no adequate remedy at law, and which will
continue unless Defendants’ actions are enjoined.

Elsevier seeks injunctive relief and costs and damages in an amount to be proven

at trial.
(Secondary Infringement of Copyright)

Elsevier incorporates by reference the allegations contained in paragraphs 1-40


Elsevier’s copyright rights and exclusive distribution rights to the works available


on ScienceDirect (the “Works”) are valid and enforceable.

Defendants have infringed on Elsevier’s copyright rights to these Works by

knowingly and intentionally reproducing and distributing these Works without license or other

Upon information and belief, Defendants intentionally induced, encouraged, and

materially contributed to the reproduction and distribution of these Works by third party users of
websites operated by Defendants.

The acts of infringement described herein have been willful, intentional, and

purposeful, in disregard of and indifferent to Elsevier’s rights.


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Without authorization from Elsevier, or right under law, Defendants are directly

liable for third parties’ infringement of Elsevier’s copyrighted Works pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§
106(1) and/or (3).

Upon information and belief, Defendants profited from third parties’ direct

infringement of Elsevier’s Works.

Defendants had the right and the ability to supervise and control their websites

and the third party infringing activities described herein.

As a direct result of Defendants’ actions, Elsevier has suffered and continues to

suffer irreparable harm for which Elsevier has no adequate remedy at law, and which will
continue unless Defendants’ actions are enjoined.

Elsevier seeks injunctive relief and costs and damages in an amount to be proven

at trial.
(Violation of the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act)

Elsevier incorporates by reference the allegations contained in paragraphs 1-40


Elsevier’s computers and servers, the third-party computers and servers which


store and maintain Elsevier’s copyrighted works for ScienceDirect, and Elsevier’s customers’
computers and servers which facilitate access to Elsevier’s copyrighted works on ScienceDirect,
are all “protected computers” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”).

Defendants (a) knowingly and intentionally accessed such protected computers

without authorization and thereby obtained information from the protected computers in a
transaction involving an interstate or foreign communication (18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C)); and
(b) knowingly and with an intent to defraud accessed such protected computers without

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authorization and obtained information from such computers, which Defendants used to further
the fraud and obtain something of value (18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(4)).

Defendants’ conduct has caused, and continues to cause, significant and

irreparable damages and loss to Elsevier.

Defendants’ conduct has caused a loss to Elsevier during a one-year period

aggregating at least $5,000.

As a direct result of Defendants’ actions, Elsevier has suffered and continues to

suffer irreparable harm for which Elsevier has no adequate remedy at law, and which will
continue unless Defendants’ actions are enjoined.

Elsevier seeks injunctive relief, as well as costs and damages in an amount to be

proven at trial.
WHEREFORE, Elsevier respectfully requests that the Court:
A. Enter preliminary and permanent injunctions, enjoining and prohibiting Defendants,
their officers, directors, principals, agents, servants, employees, successors and
assigns, and all persons and entities in active concert or participation with them, from
engaging in any of the activity complained of herein or from causing any of the injury
complained of herein and from assisting, aiding, or abetting any other person or
business entity in engaging in or performing any of the activity complained of herein
or from causing any of the injury complained of herein;
B. Enter an order that, upon Elsevier’s request, those in privity with Defendants and
those with notice of the injunction, including any Internet search engines, Web
Hosting and Internet Service Providers, domain-name registrars, and domain name


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registries or their administrators that are provided with notice of the injunction, cease
facilitating access to any or all domain names and websites through which Defendants
engage in any of the activity complained of herein;
C. Enter an order that, upon Elsevier’s request, those organizations which have
registered Defendants’ domain names on behalf of Defendants shall disclose
immediately to Plaintiffs all information in their possession concerning the identity of
the operator or registrant of such domain names and of any bank accounts or financial
accounts owned or used by such operator or registrant;
D. Enter an order that, upon Elsevier’s request, the TLD Registries for the Defendants’
websites, or their administrators, shall place the domain names on
registryHold/serverHold as well as serverUpdate, ServerDelete, and serverTransfer
prohibited statuses, for the remainder of the registration period for any such website.
E. Enter an order canceling or deleting, or, at Elsevier’s election, transferring the domain
name registrations used by Defendants to engage in the activity complained of herein
to Elsevier’s control so that they may no longer be used for illegal purposes;
F. Enter an order awarding Elsevier its actual damages incurred as a result of
Defendants’ infringement of Elsevier’s copyright rights in the Works and all profits
Defendant realized as a result of its acts of infringement, in amounts to be determined
at trial; or in the alternative, awarding Elsevier, pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504, statutory
damages for the acts of infringement committed by Defendants, enhanced to reflect
the willful nature of the Defendants’ infringement;
G. Enter an order disgorging Defendants’ profits;


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Techniques of Publishing

Techniques of Publishing

Draft translation of a talk given at the seminar Informace mezi komoditou a komunitou [The Information Between Commodity and Community] held at Tranzitdisplay in Prague, Czech Republic, on May 6, 2014

My contribution has three parts. I will begin by sketching the current environment of publishing in general, move on to some of the specificities of publishing
in the humanities and art, and end with a brief introduction to the Monoskop
initiative I was asked to include in my talk.
I would like to thank Milos Vojtechovsky, Matej Strnad and CAS/FAMU for
the invitation, and Tranzitdisplay for hosting this seminar. It offers itself as an
opportunity for reflection for which there is a decent distance from a previous
presentation of Monoskop in Prague eight years ago when I took part in a new
media education workshop prepared by Miloš and Denisa Kera. Many things
changed since then, not only in new media, but in the humanities in general,
and I will try to articulate some of these changes from today’s perspective and
primarily from the perspective of publishing.

I. The Environment of Publishing
One change, perhaps the most serious, and which indeed relates to the humanities
publishing as well, is that from a subject that was just a year ago treated as a paranoia of a bunch of so called technological enthusiasts, is today a fact with which
the global public is well acquainted: we are all being surveilled. Virtually every
utterance on the internet, or rather made by means of the equipment connected
to it through standard protocols, is recorded, in encrypted or unencrypted form,
on servers of information agencies, besides copies of a striking share of these data
on servers of private companies. We are only at the beginning of civil mobilization towards reversal of the situation and the future is open, yet nothing suggests
so far that there is any real alternative other than “to demand the impossible.”
There are at least two certaintes today: surveillance is a feature of every communication technology controlled by third parties, from post, telegraphy, telephony
to internet; and at the same time it is also a feature of the ruling power in all its
variants humankind has come to know. In this regard, democracy can be also understood as the involvement of its participants in deciding on the scale and use of
information collected in this way.
I mention this because it suggests that also all publishing initiatives, from libraries,
through archives, publishing houses to schools have their online activities, back1

ends, shared documents and email communication recorded by public institutions–
which intelligence agencies are, or at least ought to be.
In regard to publishing houses it is notable that books and other publications today are printed from digital files, and are delivered to print over email, thus it is
not surprising to claim that a significant amount of electronically prepared publications is stored on servers in the public service. This means that besides being
required to send a number of printed copies to their national libraries, in fact,
publishers send their electronic versions to information agencies as well. Obviously, agencies couldn’t care less about them, but it doesn’t change anything on
the likely fact that, whatever it means, the world’s largest electronic repository of
publications today are the server farms of the NSA.
Information agencies archive publications without approval, perhaps without awareness, and indeed despite disapproval of their authors and publishers, as an
“incidental” effect of their surveillance techniques. This situation is obviously
radically different from a totalitarianism we got to know. Even though secret
agencies in the Eastern Bloc were blackmailing people to produce miserable literature as their agents, samizdat publications could at least theoretically escape their
This is not the only difference. While captured samizdats were read by agents of
flesh and blood, publications collected through the internet surveillance are “read”
by software agents. Both of them scan texts for “signals”, ie. terms and phrases
whose occurrences trigger interpretative mechanisms that control operative components of their organizations.
Today, publishing is similarly political and from the point of view of power a potentially subversive activity like it was in the communist Czechoslovakia. The
difference is its scale, reach and technique.
One of the messages of the recent “revelations” is that while it is recommended
to encrypt private communication, the internet is for its users also a medium of
direct contact with power. SEO, or search engine optimization, is now as relevant technique for websites as for books and other publications since all of them
are read by similar algorithms, and authors can read this situation as a political
dimension of their work, as a challenge to transform and model these algorithms
by texts.


II. Techniques of research in the humanities literature
Compiling the bibliography
Through the circuitry we got to the audience, readers. Today, they also include
software and algorithms such as those used for “reading” by information agencies
and corporations, and others facilitating reading for the so called ordinary reader,
the reader searching information online, but also the “expert” reader, searching
primarily in library systems.
Libraries, as we said, are different from information agencies in that they are
funded by the public not to hide publications from it but to provide access to
them. A telling paradox of the age is that on the one hand information agencies
are storing almost all contemporary book production in its electronic version,
while generally they absolutely don’t care about them since the “signal” information lies elsewhere, and on the other in order to provide electronic access, paid or
direct, libraries have to costly scan also publications that were prepared for print
A more remarkable difference is, of course, that libraries select and catalogize
Their methods of selection are determined in the first place by their public institutional function of the protector and projector of patriotic values, and it is reflected
in their preference of domestic literature, ie. literature written in official state languages. Methods of catalogization, on the other hand, are characterized by sorting
by bibliographic records, particularly by categories of disciplines ordered in the
tree structure of knowledge. This results in libraries shaping the research, including academic research, towards a discursivity that is national and disciplinary, or
focused on the oeuvre of particular author.
Digitizing catalogue records and allowing readers to search library indexes by their
structural items, ie. the author, publisher, place and year of publication, words in
title, and disciplines, does not at all revert this tendency, but rather extends it to
the web as well.
I do not intend to underestimate the value and benefits of library work, nor the
importance of discipline-centered writing or of the recognition of the oeuvre of
the author. But consider an author working on an article who in the early phase
of his research needs to prepare a bibliography on the activity of Fluxus in central Europe or on the use of documentary film in education. Such research cuts
through national boundaries and/or branches of disciplines and he is left to travel
not only to locate artefacts, protagonists and experts in the field but also to find
literature, which in turn makes even the mere process of compiling bibliography
relatively demanding and costly activity.

In this sense, the digitization of publications and archival material, providing their
free online access and enabling fulltext search, in other words “open access”, catalyzes research across political-geographical and disciplinary configurations. Because while the index of the printed book contains only selected terms and for
the purposes of searching the index across several books the researcher has to have
them all at hand, the software-enabled search in digitized texts (with a good OCR)
works with the index of every single term in all of them.
This kind of research also obviously benefits from online translation tools, multilingual case bibliographies online, as well as second hand bookstores and small
specialized libraries that provide a corrective role to public ones, and whose “open
access” potential has been explored to the very small extent until now, but which
I won’t discuss here further for the lack of time.
The disciplinarity and patriotism are “embedded” in texts themselves, while I repeat that I don’t say this in a pejorative way.
Bibliographic records in bodies of texts, notes, attributions of sources and appended references can be read as formatted addresses of other texts, making apparent a kind of intertextual structure, well known in hypertext documents. However, for the reader these references are still “virtual”. When following a reference
she is led back to a library, and if interested in more references, to more libraries.
Instead, authors assume certain general erudition of their readers, while following references to their very sources is perceived as an exception from the standard
self-limitation to reading only the body of the text. Techniques of writing with
virtual bibliography thus affirm national-disciplinary discourses and form readers
and authors proficient in the field of references set by collections of local libraries
and so called standard literature of fields they became familiar with during their
When in this regime of writing someone in the Czech Republic wants to refer to
the work of Gilbert Simondon or Alexander Bogdanov, to give an example, the
effect of his work will be minimal, since there was practically nothing from these
authors translated into Czech. His closely reading colleague is left to try ordering
books through a library and wait for 3-4 weeks, or to order them from an online
store, travel to find them or search for them online. This applies, in the case of
these authors, for readers in the vast majority of countries worldwide. And we can
tell with certainty that this is not only the case of Simondon and Bogdanov but
of the vast majority of authors. Libraries as nationally and pyramidally situated
institutions face real challenges in regard to the needs of free research.
This is surely merely one aspect of techniques of writing.

Reading texts with “live” references and bibliographies using electronic devices is
today possible not only to imagine but to realise as well. This way of reading
allows following references to other texts, visual material, other related texts of
an author, but also working with occurrences of words in the text, etc., bringing
reading closer to textual analysis and other interesting levels. Due to the time
limits I am going to sketch only one example.
Linear reading is specific by reading from the beginning of the text to its end,
as well as ‘tree-like’ reading through the content structure of the document, and
through occurrences of indexed words. Still, techniques of close reading extend
its other aspect – ‘moving’ through bibliographic references in the document to
particular pages or passages in another. They make the virtual reference plastic –
texts are separated one from another merely by a click or a tap.
We are well familiar with a similar movement through the content on the web
– surfing, browsing, and clicking through. This leads us to an interesting parallel: standards of structuring, composing, etc., of texts in the humanities has been
evolving for centuries, what is incomparably more to decades of the web. From
this stems also one of the historical challenges the humanities are facing today:
how to attune to the existence of the web and most importantly to epistemological consequences of its irreversible social penetration. To upload a PDF online is
only a taste of changes in how we gain and make knowledge and how we know.
This applies both ways – what is at stake is not only making production of the
humanities “available” online, it is not only about open access, but also about the
ways of how the humanities realise the electronic and technical reality of their
own production, in regard to the research, writing, reading, and publishing.
The analogy between information agencies and national libraries also points to
the fact that large portion of publications, particularly those created in software,
is electronic. However the exceptions are significant. They include works made,
typeset, illustrated and copied manually, such as manuscripts written on paper
or other media, by hand or using a typewriter or other mechanic means, and
other pre-digital techniques such as lithography, offset, etc., or various forms of
writing such as clay tablets, rolls, codices, in other words the history of print and
publishing in its striking variety, all of which provide authors and publishers with
heterogenous means of expression. Although this “segment” is today generally
perceived as artists’ books interesting primarily for collectors, the current process
of massive digitization has triggered the revival, comebacks, transformations and

novel approaches to publishing. And it is these publications whose nature is closer
to the label ‘book’ rather than the automated electro-chemical version of the offset
lithography of digital files on acid-free paper.
Despite that it is remarkable to observe a view spreading among publishers that
books created in software are books with attributes we have known for ages. On
top of that there is a tendency to handle files such as PDFs, EPUBs, MOBIs and
others as if they are printed books, even subject to the rules of limited edition, a
consequence of what can be found in the rise of so called electronic libraries that
“borrow” PDF files and while someone reads one, other users are left to wait in
the line.
Whilst, from today’s point of view of the humanities research, mass-printed books
are in the first place archives of the cultural content preserved in this way for the
time we run out of electricity or have the internet ‘switched off’ in some other

III. Monoskop
Finally, I am getting to Monoskop and to begin with I am going to try to formulate
its brief definition, in three versions.
From the point of view of the humanities, Monoskop is a research, or questioning, whose object’s nature renders no answer as definite, since the object includes
art and culture in their widest sense, from folk music, through visual poetry to
experimental film, and namely their history as well as theory and techniques. The
research is framed by the means of recording itself, what makes it a practise whose
record is an expression with aesthetic qualities, what in turn means that the process of the research is subject to creative decisions whose outcomes are perceived
esthetically as well.
In the language of cultural management Monoskop is an independent research
project whose aim is subject to change according to its continual findings; which
has no legal body and thus as organisation it does not apply for funding; its participants have no set roles; and notably, it operates with no deadlines. It has a reach
to the global public about which, respecting the privacy of internet users, there
are no statistics other than general statistics on its social networks channels and a
figure of numbers of people and bots who registered on its website and subscribed
to its newsletter.
At the same time, technically said, Monoskop is primarily an internet website
and in this regard it is no different from any other communication media whose
function is to complicate interpersonal communication, at least due to the fact
that it is a medium with its own specific language, materiality, duration and access.

Contemporary media
Monoskop has began ten years ago in the milieu of a group of people running
a cultural space where they had organised events, workshops, discussion, a festival,
etc. Their expertise, if to call that way the trace left after years spent in the higher
education, varied well, and it spanned from fine art, architecture, philosophy,
through art history and literary theory, to library studies, cognitive science and
information technology. Each of us was obviously interested in these and other
fields other than his and her own, but the praxis in naming the substance whose
centripetal effects brought us into collaboration were the terms new media, media
culture and media art.
Notably, it was not contemporary art, because a constituent part of the praxis was
also non-visual expression, information media, etc., so the research began with the
essentially naive question ‘of what are we contemporary?’. There had been not
much written about media culture and art as such, a fact I perceived as drawback
but also as challenge.
The reflection, discussion and critique need to be grounded in reality, in a wider
context of the field, thus the research has began in-field. From the beginning, the
website of Monoskop served to record the environment, including people, groups,
organizations, events we had been in touch with and who/which were more or
less explicitly affiliated with media culture. The result of this is primarily a social
geography of live media culture and art, structured on the wiki into cities, with
a focus on the two recent decades.
Cities and agents
The first aim was to compile an overview of agents of this geography in their
wide variety, from eg. small independent and short-lived initiatives to established
museums. The focus on the 1990s and 2000s is of course problematic. One of
its qualities is a parallel to the history of the World Wide Web which goes back
precisely to the early 1990s and which is on the one hand the primary recording
medium of the Monoskop research and on the other a relevant self-archiving and–
stemming from its properties–presentation medium, in other words a platform on
which agents are not only meeting together but potentially influence one another
as well.
The records are of diverse length and quality, while the priorities for what they
consist of can be generally summed up in several points in the following order:


1. Inclusion of a person, organisation or event in the context of the structure.
So in case of a festival or conference held in Prague the most important is to
mention it in the events section on the page on Prague.
2. Links to their web presence from inside their wiki pages, while it usually
implies their (self-)presentation.
3. Basic information, including a name or title in an original language, dates
of birth, foundation, realization, relations to other agents, ideally through
links inside the wiki. These are presented in narrative and in English.
4. Literature or bibliography in as many languages as possible, with links to
versions of texts online if there are any.
5. Biographical and other information relevant for the object of the research,
while the preference is for those appearing online for the first time.
6. Audiovisual material, works, especially those that cannot be found on linked
Even though pages are structured in the quasi same way, input fields are not structured, so when you create a wiki account and decide to edit or add an entry, the
wiki editor offers you merely one input box for the continuous text. As is the case
on other wiki websites. Better way to describe their format is thus articles.
There are many related questions about representation, research methodology,
openness and participation, formalization, etc., but I am not going to discuss them
due to the time constraint.
The first research layer thus consists of live and active agents, relations among
them and with them.
Another layer is related to a question about what does the field of media culture
and art stem from; what and upon what does it consciously, but also not fully
consciously, builds, comments, relates, negates; in other words of what it may be
perceived a post, meta, anti, retro, quasi and neo legacy.
An approach of national histories of art of the 20th century proved itself to be
relevant here. These entries are structured in the same way like cities: people,
groups, events, literature, at the same time building upon historical art forms and
periods as they are reflected in a range of literature.
The overviews are organised purposely without any attempts for making relations
to the present more explicit, in order to leave open a wide range of intepretations
and connotations and to encourage them at the same time.
The focus on art of the 20th century originally related to, while the researched
countries were mostly of central and eastern Europe, with foundations of modern
national states, formations preserving this field in archives, museums, collections
but also publications, etc. Obviously I am not saying that contemporary media
culture is necessarily archived on the web while art of the 20th century lies in
collections “offline”, it applies vice versa as well.
In this way there began to appear new articles about filmmakers, fine artists, theorists and other partakers in artistic life of the previous century.
Since then the focus has considerably expanded to more than a century of art and
new media on the whole continent. Still it portrays merely another layer of the
research, the one which is yet a collection of fragmentary data, without much
context. Soon we also hit the limit of what is about this field online. The next
question was how to work in the internet environment with printed sources.
When I was installing this blog five years ago I treated it as a side project, an offshoot, which by the fact of being online may not be only an archive of selected
source literature for the Monoskop research but also a resource for others, mainly
students in the humanities. A few months later I found Aaaarg, then oriented
mainly on critical theory and philosophy; there was also Gigapedia with publications without thematic orientation; and several other community library portals
on password. These were the first sources where I was finding relevant literature
in electronic version, later on there were others too, I began to scan books and catalogues myself and to receive a large number of scans by email and soon came to
realise that every new entry is an event of its own not only for myself. According
to the response, the website has a wide usership across all the continents.
At this point it is proper to mention the copyright. When deciding about whether
to include this or that publication, there are at least two moments always present.
One brings me back to my local library at the outskirts of Bratislava in the early
1990s and asks that if I would have found this book there and then, could it change
my life? Because books that did I was given only later and elsewhere; and here I
think of people sitting behind computers in Belarus, China or Kongo. And even

if not, the latter is a wonder on whether this text has a potential to open up some
serious questions about disciplinarity or national discursivity in the humanities,
while here I am reminded by a recent study which claims that more than half
of academic publications are not read by more than three people: their author,
reviewer and editor. What does not imply that it is necessary to promote them
to more people but rather to think of reasons why is it so. It seems that the
consequences of the combination of high selectivity with open access resonate
also with publishers and authors from whom the complaints are rather scarce and
even if sometimes I don’t understand reasons of those received, I respect them.
Media technology
Throughout the years I came to learn, from the ontological perspective, two main
findings about media and technology.
For a long time I had a tendency to treat technologies as objects, things, while now
it seems much more productive to see them as processes, techniques. As indeed
nor the biologist does speak about the dear as biology. In this sense technology is
the science of techniques, including cultural techniques which span from reading,
writing and counting to painting, programming and publishing.
Media in the humanities are a compound of two long unrelated histories. One of
them treats media as a means of communication, signals sent from point A to the
point B, lacking the context and meaning. Another speaks about media as artistic
means of expression, such as the painting, sculpture, poetry, theatre, music or
film. The term “media art” is emblematic for this amalgam while the historical
awareness of these two threads sheds new light on it.
Media technology in art and the humanities continues to be the primary object of
research of Monoskop.
I attempted to comment on political, esthetic and technical aspects of publishing.
Let me finish by saying that Monoskop is an initiative open to people and future
and you are more than welcome to take part in it.

Dušan Barok
Written May 1-7, 2014, in Bergen and Prague. Translated by the author on May 10-13,
2014. This version generated June 10, 2014.


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