Walking the plank: how scholarly piracy affects publishers, libraries and their users
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The arrival of technology supporting peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing in scholarly communication has, until recently, had minimal impact on libraries. However, threats posed by pirate sites including Library Genesis Project (LibGen) and Sci-Hub are now impacting both library users and library licensing agreements with publishers. Publishers are nervous as they witness their proprietary content leaking out of paywalled systems—not just hundreds of thousands of articles, but millions. Accordingly, publishers are monitoring activities in licensed products very closely for any behavior that they deem suspicious. When a user’s activities cause a publisher to question whether materials are being pirated, the outcomes can vary. Consequences can range from relatively minor inconvenience for blocked users, who must find workarounds to access scholarly content—to the potential for major disruption of a centuries-old proprietary publishing system. This article uses a case study involving a student at Brock University to highlight significant challenges facing libraries and the rights of their users in the current environment of piracy-wary academic publishers.
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