shadow libraries in Barok 2018


and the Onassis
Foundation._

[![Shadow Libraries.jpg](/images/thumb/8/8e/Shadow_Libraries.jpg/500px-
Shadow_Libraries.jpg)](/File:Shadow_Libraries.jpg)

This is the first time that I was asked to talk about Monoskop as a _shadow
library_.

What are shadow libraries?
[Lawrence Liang](/Lawrence_Liang "Lawrence Liang") wrote a think piece for _e-
flux_ a couple of years ago,
in response to the closure of Library.nu, a digital library that had operated
from 2004, first as Ebooksclub, later as Gigapedia.
He wr


shadow libraries in Bodo 2014


OT CITE!
Гроер, И. (1926). Авторское право. In Большая Советская Энциклопедия. Retrieved from
http://ru.gse1.wikia.com/wiki/Авторское_право

24


mponent in the organization of the community of “librarians” who preserve and nourish the
collection. The catalog is what distinguishes an unstructured heap of computer files from a wellmaintained library, but it is the same catalog, which makes shadow libraries, unauthorized texts
collections an easy target of law enforcement. Those few digital online libraries that dare to provide
unauthorized access to texts in an organized manner, such as textz.org, a*.org, monoskop or Gigapedia/
library.nu, all had thei


ital Age. Cambridge,MA: Harward Law School.
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HAw1i4gOU4
Levin, M. B. (1983). Soviet International Copyright: Dream or Nightmare. Journal of the Copyright Society
of the U.S.A., 31, 127.
Liang, L. (2012). Shadow Libraries. e-flux. Retrieved from http://www.e-flux.com/journal/shadowlibraries/
Newcity, M. A. (1978). Copyright law in the Soviet Union. Praeger.
Newcity, M. A. (1980). Universal Copyright Convention as an Instrument of Repression: The Soviet
Experiment, The


shadow libraries in Bodo 2015


ty of electronic copies, the book is no longer a scarce
resource, libraries find themselves in an extremely competitive environment. Several different actors are
now in a position to provide low cost access to knowledge. One of these competitors are shadow libraries
- piratical text collections which have now amassed electronic copies of millions of copyrighted works
and provide access to them usually free of charge to anyone around the globe. While such shadow
libraries are far from being universal, they are able to offer certain services better, to more people and
under more favorable terms than most public or research libraries. This contribution offers insights into
the development and the inner workings of one of the biggest scientific shadow libraries on the internet in
order to understand what kind of library people create for themselves if they have the means and if they
don’t have to abide by the legal, bureaucratic and economic constraints that libraries usually face. I argue
that one of the


ly ftp servers, local shared libraries residing
on the intranets of various academic, business institutions and private archives stored on local hard drives.
The early digital libraries turned into book piracy sites and into the kernels of today’s shadow libraries.
Libraries and other major actors, who decided to start large scale digitization programs soon needed to
find out that if they wanted to avoid costly lawsuits, then they had to limit their activities to work in the
public domain. While the public dom


he digital technologies. Despite the increased awareness of rights holders to the issue of digital book
piracy, more and more communities around text collections started defy the legal constraints and to
operate and use more or less public piratical shadow libraries.

5

Bodó B. (2015): Libraries in the post-scarcity era.
in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

Aleph1
Aleph2 is a meta-library, and currently one of


ings, at
the time of writing this contribution are being prepared for publication. The following section is brief summary of
those findings and is based upon two forthcoming book chapters on Aleph in a report, edited by Joe Karaganis, on
the role of shadow libraries in the higher education systems of multiple countries.
2
Aleph is a pseudonym chosen to protect the identity of the shadow library in question.

6

Bodó B. (2015): Libraries in the post-scarcity era.
in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creat


izes, these arrangements also carry the danger of a commercial
lock-in of the access to digital works, and render libraries dependent upon the services of commercial
providers who may or may not be the best defenders of public interest (OECD, 2012).
Shadow libraries like Aleph are called into existence by the vacuum that was left behind by the collapse
of libraries in the digital sphere and by the inability of the commercial arrangements to provide adequate
substitute services. Shadow libraries are pooling distributed resources and expertise over the internet, and
use the lack of legal or technological barriers to innovation in the informal sphere to fill in the void left
behind by libraries.

What can Aleph teach us about the future of lib


c works should be completely open, and whether the blatant
disregard of copyrights through which Aleph achieved this openness is the right path towards a more
openly accessible body of scientific knowledge. It is also yet to be measured what effects shadow libraries
may have on the commercial intermediaries and on the health of scientific publishing and science in
general. But Aleph, in any case, is a case study in the potential benefits of open sourcing the library.

Conclusion
If we can take Aleph as an expres


c structure of intellectual property law. Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Lessig, L. (2004). Free culture : how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and
control creativity. New York: Penguin Press.
Liang, L. (2012). Shadow Libraries. e-flux. Retrieved from http://www.e-flux.com/journal/shadowlibraries/
Patry, W. F. (2009). Moral panics and the copyright wars. New York: Oxford University Press.
Patterson, L. R. (1968). Copyright in historical perspective (p. vii, 264 p.). Nashvil


shadow libraries in Bodo 2016


irculating in the cultural gray/black markets. For
the last decade Russian scientists, amateur librarians, and volunteers have
been collecting millions of copyrighted scientific monographs and hundreds of
millions of scientific articles in piratical shadow libraries and making them
freely available to anyone and everyone, without any charge or limitation
whatsoever (Bodó 2014b; Cabanac 2015; Liang 2012). These pirate archivists
think that despite being copyrighted and locked behind paywalls, scholarly
texts bel


or the Biggest Pirate Library on Earth.” In _Shadow Libraries_ , edited by J.
Karaganis (forthcoming). New York: American Assembly. Available at
[link](http://ssrn.com/abstract=2616633).

———. 2014b. “A Short History of the Russian Digital Shadow Libraries.” In
Shadow Libraries, edited by J. Karaganis (forthcoming). New York: American
Assembly. Available at [link](http://ssrn.com/abstract=2616631).

Boyle, J. 2003. “The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the
Public Domain.” _Law a


shadow libraries in Constant 2016


nct peonage, but the
useful knowledge that the labour market and reproduction of the neoliberal capitalism
demands has become the one and only rationale for education.

P.50

P.51

No wonder that over the last 6-7 years we have seen self-education, shadow libraries and
amateur librarians emerge again to counteract the contraction of spaces of exemption that
have been shrunk by austerity and commodity.
The project Public Library was initiated with the counteraction in mind. To help everyone
learn to use simple t



◦ uneven development &
political strategies
◦ strategies of the
developed v strategies
of the
underdeveloped : open
access v piracy
• from property to commons
◦ from property to
commons
◦ copyright, scientific
publishing, open
access
shadow libraries,
piracy,
custodians.online
• from collection to collective action
◦ critical pedagogy &
education
◦ archive, activation &
collective action

MODULE 3: ABSTRACTIONS IN ACTION
• from linear to computational
◦ library &
epistemology:
catalogue


shadow libraries in Dockray & Liang 2015


ough-shadow-
libraries/2244 "Sharing Instinct: An Annotation of the Social Contract Through
Shadow Libraries @ e-flux Conversations")


© 2015 e-flux and the author


tract and the possibility
of its being rewritten, as a way of imagining social bonds and solidarities
that can help instigate and affirm a vision of the world as a space of
potential._

>

> _I was wondering if you would join me in a conversation on shadow libraries
and social contracts. The entire universe of the book-sharing communities
seems to offer the possibility of rethinking the terms of the social contract
and its associated terms (consent, general will, private interest, and so on).
While the rise in b


while I have never thought of my own book-
collecting through the analogy of hunter-gatherers, the more I think about it,
the more sense it makes to me. Linguistically we always speak of going on book
hunts and my daily trawling through the various shadow libraries online does
seem to function by way of a hunting-gathering mentality._

>

> _Often I download books I know that I will never personally read because I
know that it may either be of interest to someone else, or that the place of a
library is the cav


e the architecture, the logic, or the rules of the library._

>

> _So libraries have often mirrored, rather than inverted, power relations
that underlie the social contracts that they almost underwrite._  _In contrast
I am wondering if the various shadow libraries that have burgeoned online, the
portable personal libraries that are shared offline: Whether all of them
reimagine the social contract of libraries, and try to create a more insurgent
imagination of the library?_

>

> _Lawrence_

>

>

>

> _July 13


me nostalgic for book smells; but
to actually really wonder what it is that could make these libraries great,
places that will be missed in the future if they go away. To me, this is the
most depressing thing about the unfortunate fact that digital shadow libraries
have to operate somewhat below the radar: it introduces a precariousness that
doesn’t allow imagination to really expand, as it becomes stuck on techniques
of evasion, distribution, and redundancy. But what does it mean when a library
functions tra


ons.e-flux.com/t
/superconversations-day-73-mohammad-salemy-responds-to-sean-dockray-lawrence-
liang-sharing-instinct-an-annotation-of-the-social-contract-through-shadow-
libraries/2244 "Sharing Instinct: An Annotation of the Social Contract Through
Shadow Libraries @ e-flux Conversations")


© 2015 e-flux and the author


shadow libraries in Graziano, Mars & Medak 2019


ranching, and making sure that every reference listed in a syllabus
will find its reference in a catalog which will lead to the actual material, in digital form,
needed for the syllabus.
Against the enclosures of copyright, we will continue building shadow libraries and
archives of struggles, providing access to resources needed for the collective processes of education.
Against the corporate platforming of workflows and metadata, we will work with social
movements, political initiatives, educators, and research


shadow libraries in Hamerman 2015


these collections against shutdown often come into
conflict. In a _[recent piece](http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/sharing-instinct/)_ for e-flux coauthored with Lawrence Liang, Dockray accordingly
laments “the unfortunate fact that digital shadow libraries have to operate
somewhat below the radar: it introduces a precariousness that doesn’t allow
imagination to really expand, as it becomes stuck on techniques of evasion,
distribution, and redundancy.”

![](http://i.imgur.com/KFe3chu.png)

U


shadow libraries in Kelty, Bodo & Allen 2018


the outrage over digitally-enabled enclosure of knowledge that
has allowed these for-profit academic publishers to appropriate extreme profits
that stand in stark contrast to the cuts, precarity, student debt and asymmetries
of access in education. Shadow libraries stood in for the access denied to public
libraries, drastically reducing global asymmetries in the process.

4

This radicalization of access has changed how publications
travel across time and space. Digital archiving, cataloging and
sharing is tran


ply won't do
away with the 'post-truth' and that our institutions might be in
need of revision, replacement and repair.
As the contributions to this pamphlet indicate, the terms
of struggle have shifted: not only do we have to continue
defending our shadow libraries, but we need to take back the
autonomy of knowledge production and rebuild institutional
grounds of solidarity.

Memory of the World
http://memoryoftheworld.org

5

Recursive
Publics and
Open Access

Christopher
Kelty

Ten years ago, I published a b


ant
success on paper, the actual use of it to circulate work pales

8

Recursive Publics and Open Access

Defining openness

Christopher Kelty

9

in comparison to the commercial control of circulation on the
one hand, and the increasing success of shadow libraries on
the other. Repositories have sprung up in every shape and
form, but they remain largely ad hoc, poorly coordinated, and
underfunded solutions to the problem of OA.

Coordinating collaborations
The collective activity of free software is ultimately


ive book collection. I knew the books by their
cover and from time to time something made me want to take it from the shelf, open
it and read it. This is how I discovered many of my favorite books and writers. With
the e-reader, and some of the best shadow libraries at hand, I felt the same at first. I
felt liberated. I could experiment without cost or risk, I could start—or stop—a book,
I didn’t have to consider the cost of buying and storing a book that was ultimately
not meant for me. I could enjoy the


, the pre-screening takes
place on the e-reader, among the ephemeral, disposable PDFs and epubs.

We Won
This new hybrid model is based on the cheap availability of digital books. In my case, the
free availability of pirated copies available through shadow libraries. These libraries
don’t have everything on offer, but they have books in an order of magnitude larger
than I’ll ever have the time and chance to read, so they offer enough, enough for me
to fill up hard drives with books I want to read, or at leas


wanted to be. I can flirt with books, I can have a quickie, or I can
leave them behind without shedding a single tear.
I don’t know how this hybrid library, and this analogue-digital hybrid practice of reading
and collecting would work without the shadow libraries which make everything freely
accessible. I rely on their supply to test texts, and feed and grow my print library.
E-books are cheaper than their print versions, but they still cost money, carry a
risk, a cost of experimentation. Book-streaming, the


s
of the last two decades taught them that law cannot put an end to piracy. As the
Sci-Hub case demonstrates, you can win all you want in a New York court, but this
has little real-world effect as long as the conditions that attract the users to the
shadow libraries remain.
Exclusivity-based publishing business models are under assault from other sides as
well. Mandated open access in the US and in the EU means that there is a quickly
growing body of new research for the access of which publishers cannot charge


However, as I will argue
further in this paper, the data that was at risk in Data Refuge
differed in important ways from the contents of what Bodó
refers to as ‘shadow libraries’ (Bodó 2015). For opening
access to copies of journals articles, shadow libraries work
perfectly. However, the value of these shadow libraries relies
on the existence of the widely agreed upon trusted versions.
If in doubt about whether a copy is trustworthy, scholars
can turn to more mainstream copies, if necessary. This was
not the situation we faced building Data Refuge. Instead, we
were


y the
science of climate change by releasing fake data designed
to cast doubt on the science of climate change. For that
reasons, I believe that the unique facts we were seeking
to safeguard in the Data Refuge bear less similarity to the
contents of shadow libraries than they do to news reports
in our current distributed and destabilized mass media
environment. Referring to the ease of publishing ideas on the
open web, Zeynep Tufecki wrote in a recent column, “And
sure, it is a golden age of free speech—if y


shadow libraries in Liang 2012


.

Ibid, xv.

In Foucault, “Different Spaces,” which was presented as a lecture to the
_Architecture Studies Circle_ in 1967, a few years after the writing of _The
Order of Things_.



der a single utopian ideal of the library. Imagination
after all has a geography and physiology and requires our alertness to these
distinctions. Lets think instead of an entire pantheon (both of spaces as well
as practices) that we can designate as shadow libraries (or shadow logotopias
if you like) which exist in the shadows cast by the long history of monumental
libraries. While they are often dwarfed by the idea of the library, like the
shadows cast by our bodies, sometimes these shadows surge ahead of the b


tist is more often
hired for a certain period of time as a worker to realize this or that
institutional project. — Boris Groys 1 When his readymades entered the space
of art, Duchamp...

Shadow Libraries

There is nothing related.

Conversations - Shadow Libraries

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Notes - Shadow Libraries

1

Esther Shipman and Sascha Hastings eds., _Logotopia: The Library in
Architecture Art and the Imagination,_ (Cambridge Galleries: Abc Art Books
Canada, 2008).

Go to Text

2

Alberto Manguel, “My Library” in Hastings and Shipman eds. _Logotopi


shadow libraries in Marczewska, Adema, McDonald & Trettien 2018


n access from the start.
Yet openness as a specific practice of publishing materials online has also influenced
how publishing itself is perceived. Making content openly available on blogs and
personal websites, or via institutional repositories and shadow libraries, has
enabled scholars to bypass legacy publishers, intermediaries and other traditional
gatekeepers, to publish their research and connect to other researchers in more
direct ways. This development has led to various reimaginings of the system of
sch


shadow libraries in Mars & Medak 2019


a copyright
infringement suit filed by the largest commercial academic publisher in the
world – Reed Elsevier. It is a familiar trajectory that a shared digital resource,
once it grows in relevance and size, gets taken down after a court decision.
Shadow libraries are no exception.
The world of higher education and science is structured by uneven development.
The world’s top-ranked universities are concentrated in a dozen rich countries
(Times Higher Education, 2017), commanding most of the global investment


usivity to access, stands the fact that the rest of the world has little access
to the top-ranked research universities (Baty, 2017; Henning, 2017) and that the
poor universities are left with no option but to tacitly encourage their students to
use shadow libraries (Liang, 2012). The editorial director of global rankings at the
Times Higher Education Phil Baty minces no words when he bluntly states ‘that
money talks in global higher education seems … to be self-evident’ (Baty, 2017).
Uneven economic devel


nd enclosing the scholarly
writing, peer reviewing and editing is done mostly for free by academics who are
often-times struggling to make their ends meet in the higher education
environment (Larivière et al., 2015).
The second circumstance is that shadow libraries invert the property relation of
copyright that allows publishers to exclude all those students, teachers and
researchers who don’t have institutional access to scholarly writing and yet need
that access for their education and research, their work


n is, de facto, to
download, to share, to read, to write, to review, to edit, to digitize, to archive, to
maintain libraries, to make them accessible. It is to be of use to, not to make
property of, our knowledge commons.) (Custodians.online, 2015)

Shadow libraries thus perform an inversion that replaces the ability of ownership
to exclude, with the practice of custodianship (notion implying both the labor of
preservation of cultural artifacts and the most menial and invisible labor of daily
maintenance and cle


have
to innovate in order to keep up with the disruptive course and accelerated the
pace of change.

Custodianship and repair
In what follows we will argue against submitting to this imperative of innovation.
Starting from the conditions from which shadow libraries emerge, as laid out in
the first Custodians.online letter, we claim that the historical trajectory of the
university and the library demands that they now embrace a position of
disobedience. They need to go back to their universalizing mission of pro


se
institutions that depend the most on the Library Genesis and Science Hubs of
this world. If we look at the download data of Library Genesis, as has Balasz Bodó
(2015), we can discern a clear pattern that the users in the rich economies use
these shadow libraries to find publications that are not available in the digital
form or are pay-walled, while the users in the developing economies use them to
find publications they don’t have access to in print to start with.
As for libraries, in the shift to the dig


shadow libraries in Mars & Medak 2019


definition that defines public library
as constituted by three elements: free access to books for every member of
a society, a library catalog, and a librarian (Mars, Zarroug and Medak, 2015).
However, this definition covers all public libraries and shadow libraries
complementing the work of public libraries in providing digital access. We have
thus decided to rename our project as Memory of the World, after our project’s

65

initial domain name. This is a phrase coined by Henri La Fontaine, whose men-

66


shadow libraries in Mars & Medak 2017


er. Together with the Public Library project, they articulate a position of civil
disobedience.
PJ & AK: Please elaborate the position of civil disobedience. How does it
work; when is it justified?
MM & TM: Legitimating discourses usually claim that shadow libraries fall
into the category of non-commercial fair use. These arguments are definitely valid,
yet they do not build a particularly strong ground for defending knowledge
commons. Once they arrive under attack, therefore, shadow libraries are typically
shut down. In our call for collective disobedience, therefore, we want to make a
larger claim. Access to knowledge as a universal condition could not exist if we –
academics and non-academics across the unevenly developed world – di


tions
in the Global North. As much as commercialization and privatization of education
are becoming mainstream across the world, so are the strategies of reproducing
one’s knowledge and academic research that depend on the de-commodified access
of shadow libraries.
Academic research papers are narrower in scope than textbooks, and Monoskop
is thematically more specific than Library Genesis. However, all these practices
exhibit ways in which our epistemologies and pedagogies are built around
institutional struc


public libraries have a mission
to provide access to knowledge to all members of the society, they are severely
limited in what they can do to accomplish that mission in the digital realm. By
claiming the mission of universal access to knowledge for shadow libraries,
collectively built shared infrastructures redress the current state of affairs outside of
the territory of institutions. Insofar, these acts of commoning can indeed be
regarded as positioned beyond the state (Holloway, 2002, 2016).
Yet, while shadow libraries can complement public libraries, they cannot
replace public libraries. And this shifts the perspective from ‘beyond’ to ‘in and
against’: we all inhabit social institutions which reflect uneven development in and
between societies. Therefore,


shadow libraries in Sekulic 2018


echnologies used by corporations to enclose can be used to liberate
knowledge and make it accessible. The existence of projects such as Library
Genesis, sci-hub, Public Library/Memory of the World, aaaarg.org, monoskop,
and ubuweb, commonly known as shadow libraries, show how building
infrastructure for storing, indexing, and access, as well as supporting
digitization, can not only be put to use by the periphery, but used as a
challenge to the normalization of enclosure offered by the core. The people
building a


ary. Rethinking the Infrastructures of
Knowledge Production’. Memory of the World (blog), 30 October 2014.
the-infrastructures-of-knowledge-production/.>

(4) For more on shadow libraries and library genesis see: Bodo, Balazs.
‘Libraries in the Post-Scarcity Era’. SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY:
Social Science Research Network, 10 June 2015.


(5) ‘Sci-Hub Tears Down Academia’s


shadow libraries in Sollfrank 2018


ge wall projection illuminating the whole space.
39 Marczewska, _This Is Not a Copy_ , 7.

This text is under a _Creative Commons_ license: CC BY NC SA 3.0 Austria


strictions, i.e. opposing the insatiable hunger of the IP regime for
control.

_Shadow Libraries_

Ubu was presented and discussed in Athens at an event titled _Shadow
Libraries: UbuWeb in Athens_ , thereby making clear reference to the ecosystem
of shadow libraries. A library, in general, is an institution that collects,
orders, and makes published information available while taking into account
archival, economic, and synoptic aspects. A shadow library does exactly the
same thing, but its mission is not an official one. Usually, the
infrastructure of shadow libraries is conceived, built, and run by a private
initiative, an individual, or a small group of people, who often prefer to
remain anonymous for obvious reasons. In terms of the media content provided,
most shadow libraries are peer-produced in the sense that they are based on
the contributions of a community of supporters, sometimes referred to as
“amateur librarians”. The two key attributes of any proper library, according
to Amsterdam-based media scholar Bodo Bal


just organize the knowledge stored in the
collection; it is not just a tool of searching and browsing. It is a critical
component in the organisation of the community of librarians who preserve and
nourish the collection.”16 What is specific about shadow libraries, however,
is the fact that they make available anything their contributors consider to
be relevant—regardless of its legal status. That is to say, shadow libraries
also provide unauthorized access to copyrighted publications, and they make
the material available for download without charge and without any other
restrictions. And because there is a whole network of shadow libraries whose
mission is “to remove all barriers in the way of science,”17 experts speak of
an ecosystem fostering free and universal access to knowledge.

The notion of the shadow library enjoyed popularity in the early 2000s when
the wide availability


orative
enterprise, which he considers to be a major inspiration for the digital
librarians. He also identifies parallels between this Kolhoz model and the
notion of the “commons”—a concept that will be discussed in more detail with
regards to shadow libraries further below.

According to Balazs, these sorts of libraries and collections are part of the
Guerilla Open Access movement (GOA) and thus practical manifestations of Aaron
Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto”.25 In this manifesto the Amer


nature, the
discursive value of the work of the “amateur librarians” and their projects
will have a lasting impact on the development of access politics.

_Cultural and Knowledge Commons_

The above discussion illustrates that the phenomenon of shadow libraries
cannot be reduced to its copyright infringing aspects. It needs to be
contextualized within a larger sociopolitical debate that situates the demand
for free and unrestricted access to knowledge within the struggle against the
all-co-opting logic of capital, which currently aims to economize all aspects
of life.

In his analysis of the Russian shadow libraries Balazs has drawn a parallel to
the commons as an alternative mode of ownership and a collective way of
dealing with resources. The growing interest in the discourses around the
commons demonstrates the urgency and timeliness of this concept. The
stru


on and foci, but
they all care for specific cultural goods and make sure these goods remain
widely accessible—be it digital copies of artworks and original documents,
books and other text formats, videos, film, or sound and music. Unlike the
large shadow libraries introduced above, which aim to provide access to
hundreds of thousands, if not millions of mainly academic papers and books,
thus trying to fully cover the world of scholarly and academic works, the
smaller artist-run projects are of different nature


l assessment and preference and cared for affectionately.
Despite its comprehensiveness, it still can be considered a “personal website”
on which the artist shares things relevant to him. As such, he is in good
company with similar “artist-run shadow libraries”, which all provide a
technical infrastructure with which they share resources, while the resources
are of specific relevance to their providers.

Just like the large pirate libraries, these artistic archiving and library
practices challenge the notion of culture as private property and remind us
that it is not an unquestionable absolute. As Jonathan Lethem contends,
“[culture] rather is a social negotiation, tenuously forged, endlessly
revised, and imperfect in its every incarnation.”35 Shadow libraries, in
general, are symptomatic of the cultural battles and absurdities around access
and copyright within an economic logic that artificially tries to limit the
abundance of digital culture, in which sharing does not mean dividing but
rather multiplyin


st official archives that are bound to abide the
law. In fact, there are no comparable official resources, which is why the
function of these projects is at least twofold: education and preservation.37

Maybe UbuWeb and the other, smaller or larger, shadow libraries do not qualify
as commons in the strict sense of involving not only a non-market exchange of
goods but also a community of commoners who negotiate the terms of use among
themselves. This would require collective, formalized, and transparent types
of


shadow libraries in Stalder 2018


note-0022a}

The lines between these different mechanisms of access are highly
permeable. Content acquired legally can make its way to file-sharing
networks as an illegal copy; content available for free can be sold in
special editions; content from shadow libraries can make its way to
publicly accessible sites; and, conversely, content that was once freely
available can disappear into shadow libraries. As regards free access,
the details of this rapidly changing landscape are almost
inconsequential, for the general trend that has emerged from these
various dynamics -- legal and illegal, public and private -- is
unambiguous: in a comprehensive and


shadow libraries in Tenen & Foxman 2014


ook
sharing can be divided roughly into two periods. The first is
characterized by local, ad-hoc peer-to-peer document exchanges and the
subsequent growth of centralized content aggregators. Following trends
in the development of the web as a whole, shadow libraries of the second
period are characterized by communal governance and distributed
infrastructure.

Shadow libraries of the first period resemble a private library in that
they often emanate from a single authoritative source--a site of
collection and distribution associated with an individual collector,
sometimes explicitly. The library of Maxim Moshkov, for examp


his kind. Despite their success, such libraries
are limited in scale by the means and efforts of a few individuals. Due
to their centralized architecture they are also susceptible to legal
challenges from copyright owners and to state intervention.
Shadow libraries responded to these problems by distributing labor,
responsibility, and infrastructure, resulting in a system that is more
robust, more redundant, and more resistant to any single point of
failure or control.

The case of *Gigapedia* (later *library.n


ipation in
Digital Culture*, edited by Joe Karaganis, 74--87. New York: SSRC, 2008.

Lessig, Lawrence. *Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the
Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity*. The Penguin Press,
2004.

Liang, Lawrence. "Shadow Libraries E-Flux," last edited 2012 and
archived on October 14, 2014.
http://www.e-flux.com/journal/shadow-libraries/.

Lobato, Ramon, and Leah Tang. "The Cyberlocker Gold Rush: Tracking the
Rise of File-Hosting Sites as Media Distribution Platforms."
*Interna



 

 

 

 

 

 

::: {#footnotes-2025 .footnotes}
::: {.footnotedivider}
:::

1. [Victor Hugo, *Works of Victor Hugo* (New York: Nottingham Society,
1907), 230. [[↩](#fnref-2025-1)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-1}
2. [Lawrence Liang, "Shadow Libraries E-Flux," 2012.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-2)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-2}
3. [McKendrick, Joseph. *Libraries: At the Epicenter of the Digital
Disruption, The Library Resource Guide Benchmark Study on 2013/14
Library Spending Plans* (Unisphere


shadow libraries in Thylstrup 2019


chapters
in part two nevertheless also present us with a paradox: while the different
mass digitization projects that appear in this book—from Google’s privatized
endeavor to Europeana’s supranational politics to the unofficial initiatives
of shadow libraries—have different historical and cultural-political
trajectories and conventional regimes of governance, they also undermine these
conventional categories as they morph and merge into new infrastructures and
produce a new form of infrapolitics. The ca


ts services are being investigated by regulators on a variety of
fronts.” 7 The collaboration not only spurred international interest, but also
inspired a group of influential tech activists and artists closely associated
with the creative work of shadow libraries to create the critical archival
project Mondotheque.be, a platform for “discussing and exploring the way
knowledge is managed and distributed today in a way that allows us to invent
other futures and different narrations of the past,”8 and a resu


itization: the trade-off between accuracy and
accessibility, raising questions both of the limits of commercialized
accelerated digitization processes (see chapter 2 on Google Books) and of
class-based and postcolonial implications (see chapter 4 on shadow libraries).

If Project Gutenberg spearheaded the efforts of bringing cultural works into
the digital sphere through manual conversion of analog text into lo-fi digital
text, a French mass digitization project affiliated with the construction of
the Bibliothè


ore illegal
than Google’s controversial scanning project?” and “What are the moral
implications of my actions vis-à-vis the colonial framework that currently
dictates Europeana’s copyright policies?”

The existence of what this book terms shadow libraries raises difficult
questions, not only to your own moral compass but also to the field of mass
digitization. Political and popular discourses often reduce the complexity of
these questions to “right” and “wrong” and Hollywood narratives of pirates and
avengers. Yet, this chapter wishes to explore the deeper infrapolitical
implications of shadow libraries, setting out the argument that shadow
libraries offer us a productive framework for examining the highly complex
legal landscape of mass digitization. Rather than writing a chapter that
either supports or counters shadow libraries, the chapter seeks to chart the
complexity of the phenomenon and tease out its relevance for mass digitization
by framing it within what we might call an infrapolitics of parasitism.

In _The Parasite_ , a strange and fabulating book that brings toge


metimes killing, but often strengthening its milieu.” In the following
sections, the lens of the parasite will help us explore the murky waters of
shadow libraries, not (only) as entities, but also as relational phenomena.
The point is to show how shadow libraries belong to the same infrapolitical
ecosystem as Google Books and Europeana, sometimes threatening them, but often
also strengthening them. Moreover, it seeks to show how visitors’ interactions
with shadow libraries are also marked by parasitical relations with Google,
which often mediates literature searches, thus entangling Google and shadow
libraries in a parasitical relationship where one feeds off the other and vice
versa.

Despite these entangled relations


at Google Books and Europeana each represent different strategies
for making material available on an industrial scale while maintaining claims
to legality. The sprawling and rapidly growing group of mass digitization
projects interchangeably termed shadow libraries represents a third set of
strategies. Shadow libraries5 share affinities with Europeana and Google Books
in the sense that they offer many of the same services: instant access to a
wealth of cultural works spanning journal articles, monographs, and textbooks
among others. Yet, while Google Books and Europeana promote visibility to
increase traffic, embed themselves in formal systems of communication, and
operate within the legal frameworks of public funding and private contracting,
shadow libraries in contrast operate in the shadows of formal visibility and
regulatory systems. Hence, while formal mass digitization projects such as
Google Books and Europeana publicly proclaim their desire to digitize the
world’s cultural memory, another layer


y far surpasses both Google and Europeana.

Because of their illicit nature, most analyses of shadowy libraries have
centered on their legal transgressions. Yet, their cultural trajectories
contain nuances that far exceed legal binaries. Approaching shadow libraries
through the lens of infrapolitics is helpful for bringing forth these much
more complex cultural mass digitization systems. This chapter explores three
examples of shadow libraries, focusing in particular on their stories of
origin, their cultural economies, and their sociotechnical infrastructures.
Not all shadow libraries fit perfectly into the category of mass digitization.
Some of them are smaller in size, more selective, and less industrial.
Nevertheless, I include them because their open access strategies allow for
unlimited downloads. Thus, shadow libraries, while perhaps selective in size
themselves, offer the opportunity to reproduce works at a massive and
distributed scale. As such, they are the perfect example of a mass
digitization assemblage.

The first case centers on lib.ru, an early Russia-base


US-
based noncommercial file-sharing site by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in response to
the marginal distribution of crucial avant-garde material, UbuWeb today offers
a wealth of avant-garde sound art, video, and textual works.

As the case studies show, shadow libraries have become significant mass
digitization infrastructures that offer the user free access to academic
articles and books, often by means of illegal file-sharing. They are informal
and unstable networks that rely on active user participation across a wide
spectrum, from deeply embedded people who have established file-sharing sites
to the everyday user occasionally sending the odd book or article to a friend
or colleague. As Lars Eckstein notes, most shadow libraries are characterized
not only by their informal character, but also by the speed with which they
operate, providing “a velocity of media content” which challenges legal
attacks and other forms of countermeasures.6 Moreover, shadow libraries also
often operate in a much more widely distributed fashion than both Europeana
and Google, distributing and mirroring content across multiple servers, and
distributing labor and responsibility in a system that is on the one hand more
robust, more redundant, and more resistant to any single point of failure or
control, and on the other hand more ephemeral, without a central point of
back-up. Indeed, some forms of shadow libraries exist entirely without a
center, instead operating infrastructurally along communication channels in
social media; for example, the use of the Twitter hashtag #ICanHazPDF to help
pirate scientific papers.

Today, shadow libraries exist as timely reminders of the infrapolitical nature
of mass digitization. They appear as hypertrophied versions of the access
provided by Google Books and Europeana. More fundamentally, they also exist as
political symptoms of the ideologies of th


ectivity. As such, we might say that although shadow
libraries often position themselves as subversives, in many ways they also
belong to the same storyline as other mass digitization projects such as
Google Books and Europeana. Significantly, then, shadow libraries are
infrapolitical in two senses: first, they have become central infrastructural
elements in what James C. Scott calls the “infrapolitics of subordinate
groups,” providing everyday resistance by creating entrance points to
hitherto-excluded knowledge zones.7 Second, they represent and produce the
infrapolitics of the digital _tout court_ with their ideals of real-time,
globalized, and unhindered access.

## Lib.ru

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’


, 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 distrib


s who submitted them because they
wished to publish in digital form.

What can we glean from the story of lib.ru about the infrapolitics of mass
digitization? First, the story of lib.ru illustrates the complex and
contingent historical trajectory of shadow libraries. Second, as the next
section shows, it offers us the possibility of approaching shadow libraries
from an infrastructural perspective, and exploring the infrapolitical
dimensions of shadow libraries in the area of tension between resistance and
standardization.

### The Infrapolitics of Lib.ru: Infrastructures of Culture and Dissent

While global in reach, lib.ru is first and foremost a profoundly
territorialized project. It was born out of a se


ultural works (through propaganda), and an infrapolitical
invisible level of contestation and resistance, enabling Russian media
consumers to act independently from official institutionalized media channels.
Indeed, some scholars tie the practice of shadow libraries to the Soviet
Union’s analog shadow activities, which are often termed _samizdat_ , that is,
illegal cultural distribution, including illegally listening to Western radio,
illegally trafficking Western music, and illegally watching Western films.23


, and there was no centralized authority to regulate them. Moreover,
the transmission of the Western capitalist system gave rise to new types of
shadow activity that produced items instead of just sharing items, adding a
new consumerist dimension to shadow libraries. Indeed, as Kuznetsov notes, the
late-Soviet samizdat created a dynamic textual space that aligned with more
general tendencies in mass digitization where users were “both readers and
librarians, in contrast to a traditional library with its order, selection,
and strict catalogisation.”27

If many of the new shadow libraries that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s were
inspired by the infrapolitics of samizdat, then, they also became embedded in
an infrastructural apparatus that was deeply nested within a market economy.
Indeed, new digital libraries emerged under such names


ite with a small animated pirate, complete with sabre
and parrot.

The integration and proliferation of samizdat practices into a complex
capitalist framework produced new global readings of the infrapolitics of
shadow libraries. Rather than reading shadow libraries as examples of late-
socialist infrapolitics, scholars also framed them as capitalist symptoms of
“market failure,” that is, the failure of the market to meet consumer
demands.30 One prominent example of such a reading was the influential Social


ch to media piracy as a legal failure, which
argued that tougher laws and increased enforcement are needed to stem
infringing activity. Yet, this book argues that Karaganis’s report, and the
approach it represents, also frames the infrapolitics of shadow libraries
within a consumerist framework that excises the noncommercial infrapolitics of
samizdat from the picture. The increasing integration of Russian media
infrapolitics into Western apparatuses, and the reframing of shadow libraries
from samizdat practices of political dissent to market failure, situates the
infrapolitics of shadow libraries within a consumerist dispositive and the
individual participants as consumers. As some critical voices suggest, this
has an impact on the political potential of shadow libraries because they—in
contrast to samizdat—actually correspond “perfectly to the industrial
production proper to the legal cultural market production.”32 Yet, as the
final section in this chapter shows, one also risks missing the rich nuances
of infrapolitics by conflating consumerist infrastructures with consumerist
practice.33

The political stakes of shadow libraries such as lib.ru illustrate the
difficulties in labeling shadow libraries in political terms, since they are
driven neither by pure globalized dissent nor by pure globalized and
commodified infrastructures. Rather, they straddle these binaries as
infrapolitical entities, the political dynamics of which align both with
standardization and dissent. Revisiting once more the theoretical debate, the
case of lib.ru shows that shadow libraries may certainly be global phenomena,
yet one should be careful with disregarding the specific cultural-political
trajectories that shape each individual shadow library. Lib.ru demonstrates
how the infrapolitics of shadow libraries emerge as infrastructural
expressions of the convergence between historical sovereign trajectories,
global information infrastructures, and public-private governance structures.
Shadow libraries are not just globalized projects that exist in parallel to
sovereign state structures and global economic flows. Instead, they are
entangled in territorial public-private governance practices that produce
their own late-sovereign infrapolitics, which, paradoxically, are embedded in
larger mass digitization problematics, both on their own territory and on the
global scene.

## Monoskop

In contrast to the broad and distributed infrastructure of lib.ru, other
shadow libraries have emerged as specialized platforms that cater to a
specific community and encourage a specific practice. Monoskop is one such
shadow library. Like lib.ru, Monoskop started as a one-man project and in many
respects still reflects its creator, Duša


, theory and
the humanities.” Within these three broad focal points, hundreds of links
direct the user to avant-garde magazines, art exhibitions and events, art and
design schools, artistic and cultural themes, and cultural theorists.
Importantly, shadow libraries such as Monoskop do not just host works
unbeknownst to the authors—authors also leak their own works. Thus, some
authors publishing with brand name, for-profit, all-rights-reserving, print-
on-paper-only publishing houses will also circulate a copy of their work on a
free text-sharing network such as Monoskop. 38

How might we understand Monoskop’s legal situation and maneuverings in
infrapolitical terms? Shadow libraries such as Monoskop draw their
infrapolitical strength not only from the content they offer but also from
their mode of engagement with the gray zones of new information
infrastructures. Indeed, the infrapolitics of shadow libraries such as
Monoskop can perhaps best be characterized as a stratagematic form of
infrapolitics. Monoskop neither inhabits the passive perspective of the
digital spectator nor deploys a form of tactics that aims to be failure free.
Rather, it exists as a


s, its territorial matrix first and foremost translates into
Foucault’s famous dictum that “knowledge is power.” But it is nevertheless
also testament to the importance of including more complex spatial dynamics in
one’s analytical matrix of shadow libraries, if one wishes to understand them
as more than globalized breakers of code and arbiters of what Manuel Castells
once called the “space of flows.”48

## UbuWeb

If Monoskop is one of the most comprehensive shadow libraries to emerge from
critical-artistic practice, UbuWeb is one of the earliest ones and has served
as an inspirational example for Monoskop. UbuWeb is a website that offers an
encyclopedic scope of downloadable audio, video, and plain-text versions of
avan


h of content, ranging from high
art collections to much more rudimentary objects. Moreover, and more
fundamentally, its critical archival practice raises broader infrapolitical
questions of cultural hierarchies, infrastructures, and domination.

### Shadow Libraries between Gift Economies and Marginalized Forms of
Distribution

UbuWeb was founded by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in response to the marginal
distribution of crucial avant-garde material. It provides open access both to
out-of-print works that find a secon


it shows how intellectual content is
increasingly privatized, not only in corporate terms but also through
individuals, which in UbuWeb’s case is expressed in Kenneth Goldsmith, who
acts as the sole archival gatekeeper.57

## The Infrapolitics of Shadow Libraries

If the complexity of shadow libraries cannot be reduced to the contrastive
codes of “right” and “wrong” and global-local binaries, the question remains
how to theorize the cultural politics of shadow libraries. This final section
outlines three central infrapolitical aspects of shadow libraries: access,
speed, and gift.

Mass digitization poses two important questions to knowledge infrastructures:
a logistical question of access and a strategic question of to whom to
allocate that access. Copyright poses a significant logistical barrier bet


l battles or as copyright reform initiatives arguing
that current copyright frameworks cast doubt upon the political ideal of total
access. As with Europeana and Google Books, the question of _access_ often
stands at the core of the infrapolitics of shadow libraries. Yet, the
strategic responses to the problem of copyright vary significantly: if
Europeana moves within the established realm of legality to reform copyright
regulations and Google Books produces claims to new cultural-legal categories
such as “nonconsumptive reading,” shadow libraries offer a third
infrastructural maneuver—bypassing copyright infrastructures altogether
through practices of illicit file distribution.

Shadow libraries elicit a range of responses and discourses that place
themselves on a spectrum between condemnation and celebration. The most
straightforward response comes, unsurprisingly, from the publishing industry,
highlighting the fundamentally violent breache


lexible copyright framework has been adopted by both Europeana and Google
Books.58 While the open source movement has become a voice on behalf of the
telos of the Internet and its possibilities of offering free and unhindered
access, its response to shadow libraries has revealed the complex
infrapolitics of access as a postcolonial problematic. As Kavita Philip
argues, CC’s founder Lawrence Lessig maintains the image of the “good” Western
creative vis-à-vis the “bad” Asian pirate, citing for instance


ptualize piracy, not as deviatory behavior in information
economies, but rather as an integral infrastructure endemic to globalized
information economies.61 This theoretical development offers valuable insights
for understanding the infrapolitics of shadow libraries. First of all, it
allows us to go beyond moral discussions of shadow libraries, and to pay
attention instead to the ways in which their infrastructures are built, how
they operate, and how they connect to other infrastructures. As Lawrence Liang
points out, if infrastructures traditionally belong to the domain of the
state, oft


ss, pirate infrastructures
operate in the gray zones of this set-up, in much the same way as slums exist
as shadow cities and copies are regarded as shadows of the original.62
Moreover, and relatedly, it reminds us of the inherently unstable form of
shadow libraries as a cultural construct, and the ways in which what gets
termed piracy differs across cultures. As Brian Larkin notes, piracy is best
seen as emerging from specific domains: dynamic localities with particular
legal, aesthetic, and social assemblages.63 In a final twist, research on
users of shadow libraries shows that usage of shadow libraries is distributed
globally. Multiple sources attest to the fact that most Sci-Hub usage occurs
outside the Anglosphere. According to Alexa Internet analytics, the top five
country sources of traffic to Sci-Hub were China, Iran, India, Brazil, and
Japan,


of distribution. In their article “Book Piracy as Peer Preservation,”
Denis Tenen and Maxwell Henry Foxman note that rather than condemning book
piracy _tout court_ , established libraries could in fact learn from the
infrastructural set-ups of shadow libraries in relation to participatory
governance, technological innovation, and economic sustainability.67 Shadow
libraries are often premised upon an infrastructure that includes user
participation without, however, operating in an enclosed sphere. Often, sh


her users of those platforms try to get the
requested content via their library accounts or employer-provided access, and
the actual files being exchanged are often hosted on other websites or emailed
to the requesting users. Through these networks, shadow libraries offer
convenient and speedy access to books and articles. Little empirical evidence
is available, but one study does indicate that a large number of shadow
library downloads are made because obtaining a PDF from a shadow library is
easier than using


ss, including formalized research libraries.68
Other studies indicate, however, that many downloads occur because the users
have (perceived) lack of full-text access to the desired texts.69

Finally, as indicated in the introduction to this chapter, shadow libraries
produce what we might call a cultural politics of parasitism. In the normative
model of shadow libraries, discourse often centers upon piracy as a theft
economy. Other discourses, drawing upon anthropological sources, have pointed
out that peer-to-peer file-sharing sites in reality organize around a gift
economy, that is, “a system of social solidarity based on a structured set of
gift exchange and social relationships among consumers.”70 This chapter,
however, ends with a third proposal: that shadow libraries produce a
parasitical form of infrapolitics. In _The Parasite_ , philosopher Michel
Serres speculates a way of thinking about relations of transfer—in social,
biological, and informational contexts—as fundamentally parasitic, that is, a
subtractive form of “taking without giving.” Serres contrasts the parasitic
model with established models of society based on notions such as exchange and
gift giving.71 Shadow libraries produce an infrapolitics that denies the
distinction between producers and subtractors of value, allowing us instead to
focus on the social roles infrastructural agents perform. Restoring a sense of
the wider context of parasitism to shadow libraries does not provide a clear-
cut solution as to when and where shadow libraries should be condemned and
when and where they should be tolerated. But it does help us ask questions in
a different way. And it certainly prevents the regarding of shadow libraries
as the “other” in the landscape of mass digitization. Shadow libraries
instigate new creative relations, the dynamics of which are infrastructurally
premised upon the medium they use. Just as typewriters were an important
component of samizdat practices in the Soviet Union, digital infrastructures
are central components of shadow libraries, and in many respects shadow
libraries bring to the fore the same cultural-political questions as other
forms of mass digitization: questions of territorial imaginaries,
infrastructures, regulation, speed, and ethics.

## Notes

1. Serres 1982, 55.




While Brewster Kahle, Kevin Kelly, Google, Amazon, Europeana’s member
institutions, and others disagree on how to achieve mass digitization, for
whom, and in what form, they are all united in their quest for digitization on
a massive scale. Many shadow libraries operate with the same quantitative
statements, proudly asserting the quantities of their massive holdings on the
front page.

Given the fractured field of mass digitization, and the lack of economic
models for how to actually make mass digitization s


ther
belong to the same overarching tale of the politics of mass digitization.
Thus, while the material spatial infrastructures of mass digitization projects
may help us appreciate certain important political dynamics of Europeana,
Google Books, and shadow libraries (such as their territorializing features or
copyright contestations in relation to knowledge production), only an
inclusion of the infrastructural imaginaries of knowledge production will help
us understand the complex politics of mass digitization a


n the cultural collections.
The main question that resounds is: where should the paths lead if there is no
longer one truth, that is, if the labyrinth has no center? Some mass
digitization projects seem to revel in this new reality. As we have seen,
shadow libraries such as Monoskop and UbuWeb use the affordances of the
digital to create new cultural connections outside of the formal hierarchies
of cultural memory institutions. Yet, while embraced by some, predictably the
new distribution of authority generates


he term “platform cooperativism” to advance worker-based
cooperatives that would “design their own apps-based platforms, fostering
truly peer-to-peer ways of providing services and things, and speak truth to
the new platform capitalists.”111 Shadow libraries such as Monoskop appear as
perfect examples of such subversive platforms and evidence of Srnicek’s
reminder that not _all_ social interactions are co-opted into systems of
profit generation. 112 Yet, as the territorial, legal, and social
infrastruc


a leads a precarious
life from one EU budget framework to the next, and its cultural identity and
software instantiations have transformed from a digital library, to a portal,
to a platform over the course of only a few decades. Last, but not least,
shadow libraries are mediating and multiplying cultural memory objects from
servers and mirror links that sometimes die just as quickly as they emerged.
The question of institutionalization matters greatly in this respect,
outlining what we might call a spectrum of c

 

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