Sci-Hub: Researchers File Intervention Application To Fight ISP Blocking
Last December, academic publishers Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society filed a lawsuit demanding that Indian ISPs block access to Sci-Hub and Libgen for copyright infringement. The ongoing case now includes an intervention application from a group of social science researchers who say that blocking the platforms would result in a great societal loss to the country.
Assisted and represented by the Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a group of social science researchers affiliated with universities across Delhi has now filed an intervention application that aims to educate the High Court on the negative implications of ordering local ISPs to block the platforms.
“They have submitted that they cannot access countless essays/books/articles because of the exorbitant rates the publishers charge for them and that these publishers own more than 50% of the total output in social science research. The only way in which they can access these resources is by relying upon LibGen and Sci-Hub. Moreover, LibGen and Sci-Hub offer access to up-to-date research which is unavailable elsewhere.”
“The Applicants’ reliance on [Sci-Hub and Libgen] has incomparably increased during the pandemic where, on account of the indefinite closure of university premises, they lost access to library resources and, in many cases, also to the institutional access to research databases,” the intervention application reads.
“[L]ib-Gen, being a free digital library, has democratized access to knowledge resources not only by eliminating paywalls but also providing access from any physical location as long as the person has access to the internet,” they add.
Blocking Would be Against The Law After highlighting the risks to society should the Court authorize blocking, the researchers turn to the legality of doing so. They believe that while the publishers own the copyrights to the articles, the use of those articles is allowed under India’s Copyright Act, at least under certain conditions.
They note that the publishers are not seeking the removal of specific infringing content but the blocking of entire websites in perpetuity. They argue that there are less restrictive measures available and these should have been sought first, rather than going directly for complete blocking of Sci-Hub and Libgen.
Before issuing any blocking order, they also ask the court to consider Article 19(1) that recognizes the fundamental right to access information.