Elsevier Gets Blocked in Sweden After it Legally Requires Internet Providers to Make Sci-Hub Locally Inaccessible

Stockholms Stadsbibliotek, Stockholm, Sweden, May 28, 2009 | © Courtesy of Bruno Vanbesien/Flickr.
Stockholms Stadsbibliotek, Stockholm, Sweden, May 28, 2009 | © Courtesy of Bruno Vanbesien/Flickr.

Even though Elsevier, which had failed to sign journal subscription contracts with Swedish university libraries over their demands for Open Access, has won a battle against Sci-Hub, an illegal platform for sharing scientific articles, in local courts in Sweden, Bahnhof, a local internet service provider, both complied with the injunction not to offer access to pirated content and effectively counter-blocks local attempts at browsing the websites of Elsevier and the Swedish court.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

As the largest player in the journal publishing market, Elsevier is significantly exposed to the risk that illegal file downloading, such as of its paywall-protected articles through Sci-Hub, a platform for illicit sharing of copyright-protected content. Though various models of Open Access that allow unpaid access to journal articles, e.g., on the economic basis of article processing charges that authors pay to publishers, are yet to be fully integrated into the journal subscription agreements that Elsevier has failed to conclude in Germany and Sweden, where university and research libraries have been cut off from its databases, the subversive compliance by the Swedish internet service provider (ISP) with a court decision to block Sci-Hub in Sweden demonstrates both the necessity of Open Access, e.g., for the common good, and resistance to it, e.g., from the side of globally dominant companies in the scientific journal publishing market.

In this respect, the latter ISP, Bahnhof, apparently diverts the local traffic from the websites of both Elsevier, which has successfully litigated against Sci-Hub and Libgen in Sweden, based on a lawsuit from October 10, 2018, against this ISP and other ones, and the Patent and Market court at which this decision has been made to its protest petition. The page to which Swedish Internet surfers arrive thematizes the difference between the principles of Open Access to knowledge and science, as cogent to the ideas behind the emergence of the Internet as well, and the paywall-based models of access to information, such as that with which Elsevier is associated.

While according to some accounts Swedish Internet users can click through to these legal sites s from the protest page created by Bahnhof, this incident shows both the legal validity of copyright, as appeals against the court decision favouring Elsevier by other ISPs have not been successful, this development shows that the insistence of Sweden’s scholarly organizations on making Open Access central to the manner scholarly are published and disseminated has resonance beyond the academia.

At the same time, as some experts suggest that copyright may have its limits, Open Access is not contrary to the principles of copyright but involves Creative Commons licensing that allows differing degrees and types of legal access permissions for publications. However, as the prevalence of Open Access in the publishing industry will grow, it can be expected that conflicts between publishing houses and different jurisdiction-bound agents, such as ISPs and libraries, over copyright may become resolved via transitional or mixed models of Open Access, while making illegal downloading increasingly unnecessary.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Stockholms Stadsbibliotek, Stockholm, Sweden, May 28, 2009 | © Courtesy of Bruno Vanbesien/Flickr.

This post is based on an article that originally appeared in OpenScience, 24/11/2018, https://openscience.com/elsevier-gets-blocked-in-sweden-after-it-legally-requires-internet-providers-to-make-sci-hub-locally-inaccessible/.

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