injustices in Bodo 2016
2008), he forcefully argued for the unilateral liberation of scholarly
knowledge from behind paywalls to provide universal access to a common human
heritage. A few years later he tried to put his ideas into action by
downloading millions of journal articles from the JSTOR database without
authorization. Alexandra Elbakyan is a 27-year-old neurotechnology researcher
from Kazakhstan and the founder of Sci-hub, a piratical collection of tens of
millions of journal articles that provides unauthorized access to paywalled
articles to anyone without an institutional subscription. In a letter to the
judge presiding over a court case against her and her pirate library, she
explained her motives, pointing out the lack of access to journal articles.
Elbakyan also believes that the inherent injustices encoded in current system
of scholarly publishing, which denies access to everyone who is not
willing/able to pay, and simultaneously denies payment to most of the authors
(Mars and Medak 2015), are enough reason to disregard the fundamental IP
framework that enables those injustices in the first place. Other shadow
librarians expand the basic access/injustice arguments into a wider critique
of the neoliberal political-economic system that aims to commodify and
appropriate everything that is perceived to have value (Fuller 2011; Interview
with Dusan Barok 2013; Sollfrank 2013).
Whatever prompts them to act, pirate librarians firmly believe that the fruits
of human thought and scientific research belong to the whole of humanity.
Pirates have the opportunity, the motivation, the tools, the know-how, and the
courage to create radical techno-social alternatives. So they resist the
status quo by collecting and “guarding” scholarly knowledge in libraries that
are freely accessible to all.
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