moshkov in Bodo 2014
in these networks. As access to technologies
increased a much wider array of people began to digitize their favorite texts, and these collections began
to circulate, first via CD-ROMs, later via the internet.
One of such collection belonged to Maxim Moshkov, who published his library under the name lib.ru in
1994. Moshkov was a graduate of the Moscow State University Department of Mechanics and
Mathematics, which played a large role in the digitization of scientific works. After graduation, he started
to work for the Scientific Research Institute of System Development
iments were the strongest, and economic needs the
The unprecedented bloom of digital librarianship is the result of the superimposition of multiple waves
of distinct transformations: technological, political, economical and social. “Maksim Moshkov's Library”
was ground zero for this convergence and soon became a central point of exchange for the community
engaged in text digitization and collection:
[At the outset] there were just a couple of people who started scanning books in large quanti
ook market was
finally starting to offer works aimed at the popular mainstream, and was flooded by cheap romances,
astrology, crime fiction, and other genres. Such texts started to appear in, and would soon flood lib.ru.
Many contributors, including Moshkov, were concerned that such ephemera would dilute the original
Draft Manuscript, 11/4/2014, DO NOT CITE!
library. And so they began to disaggregate the collection. Self-published literature, “user generated
content,” and fan fiction was separa
searchable format—first filtering duplicates and
organizing existing metadata first into an excel spreadsheet, and later moving to a more open, webbased database operating under the name Aleph.
Aleph inherited more than just books from Kolhoz and Moshkov’s lib.ru. It inherited their elitism with
regard to canonical texts, and their understanding of librarianship as a community effort. Like the earlier
sites, Aleph’s collections are complemented by a stream of user submissions. Like the other site
beneficial as long as it respected the wishes of the authors. Some authors did not want to appear online
at all, others wanted only their published works to be circulated.
Lib.ru of course integrated the parts of the HARRYFAN CD into its collection. Moshkov’s policy towards
authors’ rights was to ask for permission, if he could contact the author or publisher. He also honored
takedown requests sent to him. In 1999 he wrote on copyright issues as follows:
The author’s interests must be protected on
am afraid to live in a world where no one reads
books. This is already the case in America, and it is speeding up with us. I don’t just want to derail this
process, I would like to turn it around.”
Draft Manuscript, 11/4/2014, DO NOT CITE!
Moshkov played a crucial role in consolidating copynorms in the Russian digital publishing domain. His
reputation and place in the Russian literary domain is marked by a number of prizes12, and the library’s
continued existence. This place was secured by a
uding authors and readers.
Responding to a clear gap in affordable, legal access.
Conservatism with regard to the book, anchored in the argument that digital texts are not
substitutes for printed matter.
Many other digital libraries tried to follow Moshkov’s formula, but the times were changing. Internet and
computer access left the sub-cultural niches and became mainstream; commercialization became a
viable option and thus an issue for both the community and rightsholders; and the legal environment
the Federal Agency for Press and
Mass Communications to digitize the most important works from the 1930’s. But the chaotic licensing
environment that governed their legal status also came back to haunt them. In 2005, a lawsuit was
brought against Moshkov by KM Online (KMO), an online vendor that sold digital texts for a small fee.
Although the KMO collection—like every other collection—had been assembled from a wide range of
sources on the Internet, KMO claimed to pay a 20% royalty on its income
with a number of the heirs to classics of the Soviet period, who hoped to
benefit from an obscure provision in the 1993 Russian copyright law that granted copyrights to the heirs
of politically prosecuted and later rehabilitated Soviet-era authors. Moshkov, in turn, claimed that he
had written or oral agreements with many of the same authors and heirs, in addition to his agreement
The lawsuit was a true public event. It generated thousands of news items both online and in the
mainstream press. Authors, members of the publishing industry, legal professionals, librarians, internet
professionals publicly supported Moshkov, while KMO was seen as a rogue operator that would lie to
make easy money on freely-available digital resources.
Eventually, the court ruled that KMO indeed had one exclusive contract with Eduard Gevorgyan, and that
the publication of his texts by Moshkov infringed the moral (but not the economic) rights of the author.
Moshkov was ordered to pay 3000 Rubles (approximately $100) in compensation.
The lawsuit was a sign of a slow but significant transformation in the Russian print ecosystem. The idea
of a viable market for electronic books began to find a foothold. Electronic
hat's important is that the
news about [ALEPH] is spread mostly by face-to-face communication, where most of the unnecessary
people do not know about it. (Unnecessary are those who aim profit)14
The policy of invisibility is radically different from Moshkov’s policy of maximum visibility. Aleph hopes
that it can recede into the shadows where it will be protected by the omerta of academics sharing the
In Russian academia, [Aleph] is tacitly or actively supported. There are people that do
moshkov in Thylstrup 2019
infrapolitics of the digital _tout court_ with their ideals of real-time,
globalized, and unhindered access.
Lib.ru is one of the earliest known digital shadow libraries. It was
established by the Russian computer science professor Maxim Moshkov, who
complemented his academic practice of programming with a personal hobby of
file-sharing on the so-called RuNet, the Russian-language segment of the
Internet.8 Moshkov’s collection had begun as an e-book swapping practice in
1990, but in 1994 he uploaded the material to his institute’s web server where
he then divided the site into several section such as “my hobbies,” “my work,”
and “my library.”9
Moshkov’s library soon changed as it quickly became Russia’s preferred shadow
library, with users playing an active role in its expansion by constantly
adding new digitized books. Users would continually scan and submit new texts,
while Moshkov, in his own words, worked as a “receptionist” receiving and
handling the material.10
Shadow libraries such as Moshkov’s were most likely born not only out of a
love of books, but also out of frustration with Russia’s lack of access to up-
to-date and affordable Western works.11 As they continued to grow and gain in
popularity, shadow libraries thus became not only points of access, but also
signs of infrastructural failure in the formal library system.12 After lib.ru
outgrew its initial server storage at Moshkov’s institute, Moshkov divided it
into smaller segments that were then distributed, leaving only the Russian
literary classics on the original site.13 Neighboring sites hosted other
genres, ranging from user-generated texts and fan fiction on a shadow site
practice of handling copyright complaints by
simply removing works at the first request from the authors.15 But in 2004 the
library received its first significant copyright claim from the big Russian
publisher Kirill i Mefody (KM). KM requested that Moshkov remove access to a
long list of books, claiming exclusive Internet rights on the books, along
with works that were considered public domain. Moshkov refused to honor the
request, and a lawsuit ensued. The Ostankino Court of Moscow initially denied
the lawsuit because the contracts for exclusive Internet rights were
considered invalid. This did not deter KM, however, which then approached the
Russian authors, including the crime author Alexandra Marinina and the science
fiction writer Eduard Gevorkyan. In the end, only Eduard Gevorkyan maintained
his claim, which was of the considerable size of one million rubles.16
During the trial, Moshkov’s library received widespread support from both
technologists and users of lib.ru, expressed, for example, in a manifesto
signed by the International Union of Internet Professionals, which among other
things touched upon the importance of online ac
of the Internet and computers in Russian education system is sharply lowered.
A huge, openly available mass of Russian literary texts is a foundation
permitting further development of Russian-language culture, worldwide.17
Emphasizing that Moshkov often had an agreement with the authors he put
online, the manifesto also called for a more stable model of online public
libraries, noting that “A wide list of authors who explicitly permitted
placing their works in the lib.ru library speaks volumes about the
practicality of the scheme used by Maxim Moshkov. However, the litigation
underway shows its incompleteness and weak spots.”18 Significantly, Moshkov’s
shadow library also received both moral and financial support from the state,
more specifically in the form of funding of one million rubles granted by the
Federal Agency for the Press and Mass Media. The funding came with the
following statement from the Agency’s chairman, Mikhail Seslavinsky:
“Following the lively discussion on how copyright could be protected in
electronic libraries, we have decided not to wait for a final decision and to
support the central library of RuNet—Maxim Moshkov’s site.”19 Seslavinsky’s
support not only reflected the public’s support of the digital library, but
also his own deep-seated interests as a self-confessed bibliophile, council
chair of the Russian organization National Union of Bibliophiles
the Russian parliament on
April 21, 2004, extending copyright from 50 years after an author’s death to
70 years, in accordance with international law and as a condition of Russia’s
entry into the World Trade Organization.20
The public funding, Moshkov stated, was spent on modernizing the technical
equipment for the shadow library, including upgrading servers and performing
OCR scanning on select texts.21 Yet, despite the widespread support, Moshkov
lost the copyright case to KM on May 31, 2005. The defeat was limited,
however. Indeed, one might even read the verdict as a symbolic victory for
Moshkov, as the court fined Moshkov only 30,000 rubles, a fragment of what KM
had originally sued for. The verdict did have significant consequences for how
Moshkov manages lib.ru, however. After the trial, Moshkov began extending his
classical literature section and stopped uploading books sent by readers into
his collection, unless they were from authors who submitted them because they
wished to publish in digital form.
What can we glean from the story of li
territorialized project. It was born out of a set of political, economic, and
aesthetic conditions specific to Russia and carries the characteristics of its
cultural trajectory. First, the private governance of lib.ru, initially
embodied by Moshkov, echoes the general development of the Internet in Russia
from 1991 to 1998, which was constructed mainly by private economic and
cultural initiatives at a time when the state was in a period of heavy
transition. Lib.ru’s minimalist programming sty
ince seen meaningfully unfolded in a
variety of contexts. Part of its strength is its sidestepping of the question
of the pirate and that term’s colonial connotations. 6. Eckstein and Schwarz
2014. 7. Scott 2009, 185–201. 8. See also Maxim Moshkov’s own website hosted
2016. “Libraries in the post-scarcity era.” As Balazs Bodó notes, the first
Russian mass-digitized shadow archives in Russia were run by
readers, book fans, and often authors, who spared no effort to make their
favorite books available on FIDOnet, a popular BBS system in Russia.” 12.
Stelmakh 2008, 4. 13. Bodó 2016. 14. Bodó 2016. 15. Vul 2003. 16. “In Defense
of Maxim Moshkov's Library,” n.d., The International Union of Internet
Schmidt 2009, 7. 20. Ibid. 21. Carey 2015. 22. Mjør 2009, 84. 23. Bodó 2015.
24. Kiriya 2012. 25.
, Michelle Sitko, and Catherine Weng. 2013. _Managing Microforms in the Digital Age_. Association for Library Collections & Technical Services.
60. Carey, Quinn Ann. 2015, “Maksim Moshkov and lib.ru: Russia’s Own ‘Gutenberg.’” _TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home_. December 5.
61. Carpentier, Nico. 2011. _Media and Participation: A Site of Ideolo
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