Complaint: Elsevier v. SciHub and LibGen

Case 1:15-cv-04282-RWS Document 1 Filed 06/03/15 Page 1 of 16


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


Case 1:15-cv-04282-RWS Document 1 Filed 06/03/15 Page 6 of 16

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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Fuller & Dockray
In the Paradise of Too Many Books An Interview with Sean Dockray

# In the Paradise of Too Many Books: An Interview with Sean Dockray

By Matthew Fuller, 4 May 2011

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If the appetite to read comes with reading, then open text archive
is a great place to stimulate and sate your hunger. Here, Matthew Fuller talks
to long-term observer Sean Dockray about the behaviour of text and
bibliophiles in a text-circulation network

Sean Dockray is an artist and a member of the organising group for the LA
branch of The Public School, a geographically distributed and online platform
for the self-organisation of learning.1 Since its initiation by Telic Arts, an
organisation which Sean directs, The Public School has also been taken up as a
model in a number of cities in the USA and Europe.2

We met to discuss the growing phenomenon of text-sharing. has
developed over the last few years as a crucial site for the sharing and
discussion of texts drawn from cultural theory, politics, philosophy, art and
related areas. Part of this discussion is about the circulation of texts,
scanned and uploaded to other sites that it provides links to. Since
participants in The Public School often draw from the uploads to form readers
or anthologies for specific classes or events series, this project provides a
useful perspective from which to talk about the nature of text in the present

**Sean Dockray** **:** People usually talk about three key actors in
discussions about publishing, which all play fairly understandable roles:
readers; publishers; and authors.

**Matthew Fuller:** Perhaps it could be said that suggests some
other actors that are necessary for a real culture of text; firstly that books
also have some specific kind of activity to themselves, even if in many cases
it is only a latent quality, of storage, of lying in wait and, secondly, that
within the site, there is also this other kind of work done, that of the
public reception and digestion, the response to the texts, their milieu, which
involves other texts, but also systems and organisations, and platforms, such
as Aaaaarg.


Image: A young Roland Barthes, with space on his bookshelf

**SD:** Where even the three actors aren't stable! The people that are using
the site are fulfilling some role that usually the publisher has been doing or
ought to be doing, like marketing or circulation.

**MF:** Well it needn't be seen as promotion necessarily. There's also this
kind of secondary work with critics, reviewers and so on - which we can say is
also taken on by universities, for instance, and reading groups, magazines,
reviews - that gives an additional life to the text or brings it particular
kinds of attention, certain kind of readerliness.

**SD:** Situates it within certain discourses, makes it intelligible in a way,
in a different way.

**MF:** Yes, exactly, there's this other category of life to the book, which
is that of the kind of milieu or the organisational structure in which it
circulates and the different kind of networks of reference that it implies and
generates. Then there's also the book itself, which has some kind of agency,
or at least resilience and salience, when you think about how certain books
have different life cycles of appearance and disappearance.

**SD:** Well, in a contemporary sense, you have something like _Nights of
Labour_ , by Ranci _è_ re - which is probably going to be republished or
reprinted imminently - but has been sort of invisible, out of print, until, by
surprise, it becomes much more visible within the art world or something.

**MF:** And it's also been interesting to see how the art world plays a role
in the reverberations of text which isn't the same as that in cultural theory
or philosophy. Certainly _Nights of Labour_ , something that is very close to
the role that cultural studies plays in the UK, but which (cultural studies)
has no real equivalent in France, so then, geographically and linguistically,
and therefore also in a certain sense conceptually, the life of a book
exhibits these weird delays and lags and accelerations, so that's a good
example. I'm interested in what role Aaaaarg plays in that kind of
proliferation, the kind of things that books do, where they go and how they
become manifest. So I think one of the things Aaaaarg does is to make books
active in different ways, to bring out a different kind of potential in

**SD:** Yes, the debate has tended so far to get stuck in those three actors
because people tend to end up picking a pair and placing them in opposition to
one another, especially around intellectual property. The discussion is very
simplistic and ends up in that way, where it's the authors against readers, or
authors against their publishers, with the publishers often introducing
scarcity, where the authors don't want it to be - that's a common argument.
There's this situation where the record industry is suing its own audience.
That's typically the field now.

**MF:** So within that kind of discourse of these three figures, have there
been cases where you think it's valid that there needs to be some form of
scarcity in order for a publishing project to exist?

**SD:** It's obviously not for me to say that there does or doesn't need to be
scarcity but the scarcity that I think we're talking about functions in a
really specific way: it's usually within academic publishing, the book or
journal is being distributed to a few libraries and maybe 500 copies of it are
being printed, and then the price is something anywhere from $60 to $500, and
there's just sort of an assumption that the audience is very well defined and
stable and able to cope with that.

**MF:** Yeah, which recognises that the audiences may be stable as an
institutional form, but not that over time the individual parts of say that
library user population change in their relationship to the institution. If
you're a student for a few years and then you no longer have access, you lose
contact with that intellectual community...

**SD:** Then people just kind of have to cling to that intellectual community.
So when scarcity functions like that, I can't think of any reason why that
_needs_ to happen. Obviously it needs to happen in the sense that there's a
relatively stable balance that wants to perpetuate itself, but what you're
asking is something else.

**MF:** Well there are contexts where the publisher isn't within that academic
system of very high costs, sustained by volunteer labour by academics, the
classic peer review system, but if you think of more of a trade publisher like
a left or a movement or underground publisher, whose books are being
circulated on Aaaaarg...

**SD:** They're in a much more precarious position obviously than a university
press whose economics are quite different, and with the volunteer labour or
the authors are being subsidised by salary - you have to look at the entire
system rather than just the publication. But in a situation where the
publisher is much more precarious and relying on sales and a swing in one
direction or another makes them unable to pay the rent on a storage facility,
one can definitely see why some sort of predictability is helpful and

**MF:** So that leads me to wonder whether there are models of publishing that
are emerging that work with online distribution, or with the kind of thing
that Aaaaarg does specifically. Are there particular kinds of publishing
initiatives that really work well in this kind of context where free digital
circulation is understood as an a priori, or is it always in this kind of
parasitic or cyclical relationship?

**SD:** I have no idea how well they work actually; I don't know how well,
say, Australian publisher, works for example. 3 I like a lot of what
they publish, it's given visibility when distributes it and that's a
lot of what a publisher's role seems to be (and what Aaaaarg does as well).
But are you asking how well it works in terms of economics?

**MF:** Well, just whether there's new forms of publishing emerging that work
well in this context that cut out some of the problems ?

**SD:** Well, there's also the blog. Certain academic discourses, philosophy
being one, that are carried out on blogs really work to a certain extent, in
that there is an immediacy to ideas, their reception and response. But there's
other problems, such as the way in which, over time, the posts quickly get
forgotten. In this sense, a publication, a book, is kind of nice. It
crystallises and stays around.

**MF:** That's what I'm thinking, that the book is a particular kind of thing
which has it's own quality as a form of media. I also wonder whether there
might be intermediate texts, unfinished texts, draft texts that might
circulate via Aaaaarg for instance or other systems. That, at least to me,
would be kind of unsatisfactory but might have some other kind of life and
readership to it. You know, as you say, the blog is a collection of relatively
occasional texts, or texts that are a work in progress, but something like
Aaaaarg perhaps depends upon texts that are finished, that are absolutely the
crystallisation of a particular thought.


Image: The Tree of Knowledge as imagined by Hans Sebald Beham in his 1543
engraving _Adam and Eve_

**SD:** Aaaaarg is definitely not a futuristic model. I mean, it occurs at a
specific time, which is while we're living in a situation where books exist
effectively as a limited edition. They can travel the world and reach certain
places, and yet the readership is greatly outpacing the spread and
availability of the books themselves. So there's a disjunction there, and
that's obviously why Aaaaarg is so popular. Because often there are maybe no
copies of a certain book within 400 miles of a person that's looking for it,
but then they can find it on that website, so while we're in that situation it

**MF:** So it's partly based on a kind of asymmetry, that's spatial, that's
about the territories of publishers and distributors, and also a kind of
asymmetry of economics?

**SD:** Yeah, yeah. But others too. I remember when I was affiliated with a
university and I had JSTOR access and all these things and then I left my job
and then at some point not too long after that my proxy access expired and I
no longer had access to those articles which now would cost $30 a pop just to
even preview. That's obviously another asymmetry, even though, geographically
speaking, I'm in an identical position, just that my subject position has
shifted from affiliated to unaffiliated.

**MF:** There's also this interesting way in which Aaaaarg has gained
different constituencies globally, you can see the kind of shift in the texts
being put up. It seems to me anyway there are more texts coming from non-
western authors. This kind of asymmetry generates a flux. We're getting new
alliances between texts and you can see new bibliographies emerge.

**SD:** Yeah, the original community was very American and European and
gradually people were signing up at other places in order to have access to a
lot of these texts that didn't reach their libraries or their book stores or
whatever. But then there is a danger of US and European thought becoming
central. A globalisation where a certain mode of thought ends up just erasing
what's going on already in the cities where people are signing up, that's a
horrible possible future.

**MF:** But that's already something that's _not_ happening in some ways?

**SD:** Exactly, that's what seems to be happening now. It goes on to
translations that are being put up and then texts that are coming from outside
of the set of US and western authors and so, in a way, it flows back in the
other direction. This hasn't always been so visible, maybe it will begin to
happen some more. But think of the way people can list different texts
together as ‘issues' - a way that you can make arbitrary groupings - and
they're very subjective, you can make an issue named anything and just lump a
bunch of texts in there. But because, with each text, you can see what other
issues people have also put it in, it creates a trace of its use. You can see
that sometimes the issues are named after the reading groups, people are using
the issues format as a collecting tool, they might gather all Portuguese
translations, or The Public School uses them for classes. At other times it's
just one person organising their dissertation research but you see the wildly
different ways that one individual text can be used.

**MF:** So the issue creates a new form of paratext to the text, acting as a
kind of meta-index, they're a new form of publication themselves. To publish a
bibliography that actively links to the text itself is pretty cool. That also
makes me think within the structures of Aaaaarg it seems that certain parts of
the library are almost at breaking point - for instance the alphabetical

**SD:** Which is funny because it hasn't always been that alphabetical
structure either, it used to just be everything on one page, and then at some
point it was just taking too long for the page to load up A-Z. And today A is
as long as the entire index used to be, so yeah these questions of density and
scale are there but they've always been dealt with in a very ad hoc kind of
way, dealing with problems as they come. I'm sure that will happen. There
hasn't always been a search and, in a way, the issues, along with
alphabetising, became ways of creating more manageable lists, but even now the
list of issues is gigantic. These are problems of scale.

**MF:** So I guess there's also this kind of question that emerges in the
debate on reading habits and reading practices, this question of the breadth
of reading that people are engaging in. Do you see anything emerging in
Aaaaarg that suggests a new consistency of handling reading material? Is there
a specific quality, say, of the issues? For instance, some of them seem quite
focused, and others are very broad. They may provide insights into how new
forms of relationships to intellectual material may be emerging that we don't
quite yet know how to handle or recognise. This may be related to the lament
for the classic disciplinary road of deep reading of specific materials with a
relatively focused footprint whereas, it is argued, the net is encouraging a
much wider kind of sampling of materials with not necessarily so much depth.

**SD:** It's partially driven by people simply being in the system, in the
same way that the library structures our relationship to text, the net does it
in another way. One comment I've heard is that there's too much stuff on
Aaaaarg, which wasn't always the case. It used to be that I read every single
thing that was posted because it was slow enough and the things were short
enough that my response was, ‘Oh something new, great!' and I would read it.
But now, obviously that is totally impossible, there's too much; but in a way
that's just the state of things. It does seem like certain tactics of making
sense of things, of keeping things away and letting things in and queuing
things for reading later become just a necessary part of even navigating. It's
just the terrain at the moment, but this is only one instance. Even when I was
at the university and going to libraries, I ended up with huge stacks of books
and I'd just buy books that I was never going to read just to have them
available in my library, so I don't think feeling overwhelmed by books is
particularly new, just maybe the scale of it is. In terms of how people
actually conduct themselves and deal with that reality, it's difficult to say.
I think the issues are one of the few places where you would see any sort of
visible answers on Aaaaarg, otherwise it's totally anecdotal. At The Public
School we have organised classes in relationship to some of the issues, and
then we use the classes to also figure out what texts we are going to be
reading in the future, to make new issues and new classes. So it becomes an
organising group, reading and working its way through subject matter and
material, then revisiting that library and seeing what needs to be there.

**MF:** I want to follow that kind of strand of habits of accumulation,
sorting, deferring and so on. I wonder, what is a kind of characteristic or
unusual reading behavior? For instance are there people who download the
entire list? Or do you see people being relatively selective? How does the
mania of the net, with this constant churning of data, map over to forms of

**SD:** Well, in Aaaaarg it's again very specific. Anecdotally again, I have
heard from people how much they download and sometimes they're very selective,
they just see something that's interesting and download it, other times they
download everything and occasionally I hear about this mania of mirroring the
whole site. What I mean about being specific to Aaaaarg is that a lot of the
mania isn't driven by just the need to have everything; it's driven by the
acknowledgement that the source is going to disappear at some point. That
sense of impending disappearance is always there, so I think that drives a lot
of people to download everything because, you know, it's happened a couple
times where it's just gone down or moved or something like that.

**MF:** It's true, it feels like something that is there even for a few weeks
or a few months. By a sheer fluke it could last another year, who knows.

**SD:** It's a different kind of mania, and usually we get lost in this
thinking that people need to possess everything but there is this weird
preservation instinct that people have, which is slightly different. The
dominant sensibility of Aaaaarg at the beginning was the highly partial and
subjective nature to the contents and that is something I would want to
preserve, which is why I never thought it to be particularly exciting to have
lots of high quality metadata - it doesn't have the publication date, it
doesn't have all the great metadata that say Amazon might provide. The system
is pretty dismal in that way, but I don't mind that so much. I read something
on the Internet which said it was like being in the porn section of a video
store with all black text on white labels, it was an absolutely beautiful way
of describing it. Originally Aaaaarg was about trading just those particular
moments in a text that really struck you as important, that you wanted other
people to read so it would be very short, definitely partial, it wasn't a
completist project, although some people maybe treat it in that way now. They
treat it as a thing that wants to devour everything. That's definitely not the
way that I have seen it.

**MF:** And it's so idiosyncratic I mean, you know it's certainly possible
that it could be read in a canonical mode, you can see that there's that
tendency there, of the core of Adorno or Agamben, to take the a's for
instance. But of the more contemporary stuff it's very varied, that's what's
nice about it as well. Alongside all the stuff that has a very long-term
existence, like historical books that may be over a hundred years old, what
turns up there is often unexpected, but certainly not random or


Image: French art historian André Malraux lays out his _Musée Imaginaire_ ,

**SD:** It's interesting to think a little bit about what people choose to
upload, because it's not easy to upload something. It takes a good deal of
time to scan a book. I mean obviously some things are uploaded which are, have
always been, digital. (I wrote something about this recently about the scan
and the export - the scan being something that comes out of a labour in
relationship to an object, to the book, and the export is something where the
whole life of the text has sort of been digital from production to circulation
and reception). I happen to think of Aaaaarg in the realm of the scan and the
bootleg. When someone actually scans something they're potentially spending
hours because they're doing the work on the book they're doing something with
software, they're uploading.

**MF:** Aaaarg hasn't introduced file quality thresholds either.

**SD:** No, definitely not. Where would that go?

**MF:** You could say with PDFs they have to be searchable texts?

**SD:** I'm sure a lot of people would prefer that. Even I would prefer it a
lot of the time. But again there is the idiosyncratic nature of what appears,
and there is also the idiosyncratic nature of the technical quality and
sometimes it's clear that the person that uploads something just has no real
experience of scanning anything. It's kind of an inevitable outcome. There are
movie sharing sites that are really good about quality control both in the
metadata and what gets up; but I think that if you follow that to the end,
then basically you arrive at the exported version being the Platonic text, the
impossible, perfect, clear, searchable, small - totally eliminating any trace
of what is interesting, the hand of reading and scanning, and this is what you
see with a lot of the texts on Aaaaarg. You see the hand of the person who's
read that book in the past, you see the hand of the person who scanned it.
Literally, their hand is in the scan. This attention to the labour of both
reading and redistributing, it's important to still have that.

**MF:** You could also find that in different ways for instance with a pdf, a
pdf that was bought directly as an ebook that's digitally watermarked will
have traces of the purchaser coded in there. So then there's also this work of
stripping out that data which will become a new kind of labour. So it doesn't
have this kind of humanistic refrain, the actual hand, the touch of the
labour. This is perhaps more interesting, the work of the code that strips it
out, so it's also kind of recognising that code as part of the milieu.

**SD:** Yeah, that is a good point, although I don't know that it's more
interesting labour.

**MF:** On a related note, The Public School as a model is interesting in that
it's kind of a convention, it has a set of rules, an infrastructure, a
website, it has a very modular being. Participants operate with a simple
organisational grammar which allows them to say ‘I want to learn this' or ‘I
want to teach this' and to draw in others on that basis. There's lots of
proposals for classes, some of them don't get taken up, but it's a process and
a set of resources which allow this aggregation of interest to occur. I just
wonder how you saw that kind of ethos of modularity in a way, as a set of
minimum rules or set of minimum capacities that allow a particular set of
things occur?

**SD:** This may not respond directly to what you were just talking about, but
there's various points of entry to the school and also having something that
people feel they can take on as their own and I think the minimal structure
invites quite a lot of projection as to what that means and what's possible
with it. If it's not doing what you want it to do or you think, ‘I'm not sure
what it is', there's the sense that you can somehow redirect it.

**MF:** It's also interesting that projection itself can become a technical
feature so in a way the work of the imagination is done also through this kind
of tuning of the software structure. The governance that was handled by the
technical infrastructure actually elicits this kind of projection, elicits the
imagination in an interesting way.

**SD:** Yeah, yeah, I totally agree and, not to put too much emphasis on the
software, although I think that there's good reason to look at both the
software and the conceptual diagram of the school itself, but really in a way
it would grind to a halt if it weren't for the very traditional labour of
people - like an organising committee. In LA there's usually around eight of
us (now Jordan Biren, Solomon Bothwell, Vladada Gallegos, Liz Glynn, Naoko
Miyano, Caleb Waldorf, and me) who are deeply involved in making that
translation of these wishes - thrown onto the website that somehow attract the
other people - into actual classes.

**MF:** What does the committee do?

**SD:** Even that's hard to describe and that's what makes it hard to set up.
It's always very particular to even a single idea, to a single class proposal.
In general it'd be things like scheduling, finding an instructor if an
instructor is what's required for that class. Sometimes it's more about
finding someone who will facilitate, other times it's rounding up materials.
But it could be helping an open proposal take some specific form. Sometimes
it's scanning things and putting them on Aaaaarg. Sometimes, there will be a
proposal - I proposed a class in the very, very beginning on messianic time, I
wanted to take a class on it - and it didn't happen until more than a year and
a half later.

**MF:** Well that's messianic time for you.

**SD:** That and the internet. But other times it will be only a week later.
You know we did one on the Egyptian revolution and its historical context,
something which demanded a very quick turnaround. Sometimes the committee is
going to classes and there will be a new conflict that arises within a class,
that they then redirect into the website for a future proposal, which becomes
another class: a point of friction where it's not just like next, and next,
and next, but rather it's a knot that people can't quite untie, something that
you want to spend more time with, but you may want to move on to other things
immediately, so instead you postpone that to the next class. A lot of The
Public School works like that: it's finding momentum then following it. A lot
of our classes are quite short, but we try and string them together. The
committee are the ones that orchestrate that. In terms of governance, it is
run collectively, although with the committee, every few months people drop
off and new people come on. There are some people who've been on for years.
Other people who stay on just for that point of time that feels right for
them. Usually, people come on to the committee because they come to a lot of
classes, they start to take an interest in the project and before they know it
they're administering it.

**Matthew Fuller's <[](> most
recent book, _Elephant and Castle_ , is forthcoming from Autonomedia. **

**He is collated at**



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