Sci-Hub supporters have asked all users of the global web for help. They encourage anyone wishing to download part of the scientific publications archive and stay on the torrent distribution as long as possible. Over the years, this portal has provided thousands of scientists with free access to scientific articles from peer-reviewed journals and helped save huge sums on subscriptions. Now the copyright holders have dealt another blow to Sci-Hub - and caring netizens decided to make it fundamentally invulnerable.
Updated May 20: Alexandra Elbakyan commented on the news, asked for corrections and clarified some facts. The first, third, fifth, sixth paragraphs were changed, and an addition was made to the end of the text.
A few days ago on the largest English-speaking forum on the Internet - the site Reddit - there was a call for the start of the "Sci-Hub Rescue Mission". The translation of the manifesto into Russian is also posted on Habré. In short, the supporters of the principles of "Open Science" ask all who are not indifferent to become archivists and save on their computers a part of the wealth of the "pirate" scientific portal. To do this, created several auxiliary resources that allow you to track the progress of the "Rescue Mission", look for the necessary articles in the archives and choose which torrent to download in the first place. In order for the Sci-Hub legacy to last as long as possible, naturally, it is desirable to stay on the distribution forever.
The Sci-Hub portal appeared in 2011 through the efforts of Alexandra Elbakyan, who adheres to the point of view that scientific knowledge should be available to everyone. The collection of the resource was replenished with scientific articles that were downloaded bypassing the "paywalls" using a special script or through institute proxies from the sites of peer-reviewed journals. The latter, which is quite logical, did not appreciate such a development of events. Elsevier, Springer Nature, John Wiley and Cambridge University Press, as well as the American Chemical Society (ACS), have repeatedly filed lawsuits against Sci-Hub in various countries.
As a result, the "pirated" scientific resource has repeatedly "moved" from one domain to another due to blocking, and its founder is wanted by law enforcement agencies of several states. In early May, Alexandra tweeted a notice that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had asked Apple for her personal information in 2019. Since Elbakyan is a suspect in the investigation of the department, the company could notify her about this only after the fact. In other words, the woman has been under continuous surveillance in cyberspace for almost two years.
The above fact could be attributed to another page of the sluggish struggle of copyright holders with Sci-Hub, but recent events hint at a serious aggravation. For example, in January, Twitter blocked the official portal account used to publish statements of support for the project. This happened against the backdrop of a campaign by Indian scientists who organized against the claim of the copyright holders. The Delhi City Court sided with them, recognizing Sci-Hub as socially important. At least in India, the blocking of the portal was postponed, but for a number of reasons, the archive of the "pirate" scientific resource has not been replenished for several months.
Caring supporters of the project decided that it had entered the phase of an acute crisis and initiated the "Rescue Mission". It is curated by the Library Genesis resource (LibGen), which has existed since 2008 and does about the same thing as Sci-Hub: it collects scientific articles and provides access to them for free. Therefore, without the support of people organizing distributed storage on their computers, it is also under threat of destruction. This is only the first phase of the mission: in the next phase, it is planned to develop a full-fledged decentralized "indestructible" open database of scientific publications.
Certainly, resources such as Sci-Hub and LibGen are controversial. On the one hand, they distribute "pirated" content, that is, de facto stolen from copyright holders. On the other hand, they help many people to get access to peer-reviewed scientific articles. Otherwise, many researchers engaged in scientific work would not even be able to get close to the actual modern data. This is especially important for developing countries and staff in institutions with modest budgets.
For example, in Russia, even the largest universities like Moscow State University do not have subscriptions to all major scientific peer-reviewed journals. That is, those employees who work outside the "mainstream" areas either have to ignore the current publications, or pay out of pocket for access to them (the cost of one article usually fluctuates between eight and 35 dollars). Sci-Hub in general and Elbakyan personally in particular may have a controversial reputation, but the importance of the project is invaluable. Therefore, to maintain this resource or not is an open question, but it is definitely unacceptable to destroy it.
Upd. In her Sci-Hub Telegram channel, Alexandra separately emphasized that she had nothing to do with the Rescue Mission, although she considered it reasonable to create a backup copy of the article archive. Elbakyan explained the suspension of the website replenishment by a “temporary pause”. She also clarified that the script serving as the core of the service works without human intervention and no help from supporters or volunteers is required for its functioning. Except for giving this script access to the logs.