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But as Sci-Hub grew in popularity, academic publishers grew alarmed.

Sci-Hub posed a direct threat to their business model.

But even after receiving the “YOU HAVE BEEN SUED” email, Elbakyan was surprisingly relaxed. The publicity made Sci-Hub bigger, transforming it into the largest Open Access academic resource in the world.

In just six years of existence, Sci-Hub had become a juggernaut: the 64.5 million papers it hosted represented two-thirds of published research, and it was available to anyone.

“I remember when the administrator at Lib Gen sent me this news and said something like ‘Well, that’s...

that’s a real problem.’ There’s no literal translation,” Elbakyan tells me in Russian.

The server hosted Sci-Hub, a website with over 64 million academic papers available for free to anybody in the world.

It was the reason that, one day in June 2015, Alexandra Elbakyan, the student and programmer with a futurist streak and a love for neuroscience blogs, opened her email to a message from the world’s largest publisher: “YOU HAVE BEEN SUED.” It wasn’t long before an administrator at Library Genesis, another pirate repository named in the lawsuit, emailed her about the announcement.

Even Harvard said in 2012 that it couldn’t afford journals’ rising fees, citing, in particular, two publishers that had inflated their rates by 145 percent within six years.

Germany’s University of Konstanz dropped its subscription to Elsevier’s journals in 2014, saying its prices had increased by 30 percent in five years.


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