We have all heard about the darknet, the Web content that exists on overlay networks which use the public Internet but which require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. A similar version of libraries – called pirate or shadow libraries – have been created. All around the world these libraries are filled with banned materials. But no actual papers trade hands; everything is digital. With complete irony, the internet-accessible content is not banned for shocking content but for copyright infringement. This interesting news came to us from Atlas Obscura in their article, “The Rise of Pirate Libraries.”

It includes hundreds of thousands of books and millions of journal articles that otherwise are found only in expensive academic journals. Scanned or downloaded from journal sites, they are available through pirate libraries for free.

The creators of these repositories are a small group with a great many being academics. In 2015, Elsevier, one of the largest academic publishers in America, went to court to try to shut down two of the most popular, Sci-Hub and Library Genesis. They alleged that these libraries cost the company millions of dollars in lost profits. But the people who run and support pirate libraries argue that they’re filling a market gap, providing access to information to researchers around the world who wouldn’t have the resources to obtain these materials any other way.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.