Elsevier Files Suit Against Pirate Search Engines

3573226460_65c3f90384_oElsevier continued its whack-a-mole game with pirates this week by filing a lawsuit against LibGen.org, a search engine.

TorrentFreak reports that Elsevier has filed suit in New York District Court against LibGen and another search engine, SciHub.org. The publisher alleges that the sites are pirating articles from Elsevier’s ScienceDirect platform.

ScienceDirect is of course behind a paywall and thus inaccessible to the general public, but most universities pay a license fee so students and faculty can access it. According to the  complaint (pdf), the pirates scraped the content using an illicitly acquired student or faculty access.

“Defendants are reproducing and distributing unauthorized copies of Elsevier’s copyrighted materials, unlawfully obtained from ScienceDirect, through Sci-Hub and through various websites affiliated with the Library Genesis Project.”

The complaint goes on to read: “Specifically, Defendants utilize their websites located at sci-hub.org and at the Libgen Domains to operate an international network of piracy and copyright infringement by circumventing legal and authorized means of access to the ScienceDirect database.”

I’ve never heard of Sci-Hub before, but LibGen is an infamous pirate site so Elsevier’s allegations are probably true (I do quibble, though, on the point of whether LibGen is hosting the content).

Elsevier is suing with the goal of getting an injunction against  the sites’ operators, search engines, domain registrars, life coaches, and webhosts in order to take the sites down. The LibGen domain is registered in the Netherlands, and much to my surprise Sci-Hub has a PO Box in Delaware, so both sites should be within the reach of Elsevier.

Elsevier is seeking compensation for its losses. Given that the sites give away the articles for free, I’m not sure what Elsevier expects to get out of it. But that is their business.

image by Jorge Franganillo

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. DebbyS10 June, 2015

    I understand that Elsevier publishes, among other things, scholarly works by university students and professors. Taxpayers most likely paid for the research. Elsevier takes the papers, publishes them, and charges (a huge amount sometimes) for a look. The research might be able to solve a lot of world problems, but Elsevier wants a cut first. So hooray for whoever is opening the research to the public.

    1. DebbyS10 June, 2015

      …and I just now saw the very first comment, just above mine. Elsevier — greedy middlemen…

      1. Paul10 June, 2015

        Its a common fallacy to think that publishing the paper is cheap, but its not. It generally costs between $500-$10,000 per paper to get them published depending on how much work is required to get them into shape and how many papers are rejected at the journal you’re trying to publish in, how high the peer review quality is etc…

        We’re at “peak” subscription now, and the revenue publishers will get will decline, which is why so many of them (even the Nature group) are merging. Its one of the few ways to cut costs.

        1. zach23 July, 2015

          What a load of BS. Publishing is cheap, it is the salaries of the publishers which have risen astronomically. The costs have well outpaced inflation, although the cost of publishing has markedly decreased. This is unmerited wealth, and stolen wealth by Elsevier in terms of cash dollars. If you take into consideration the loss of innovation and progress through artificially sequestering knowledge, the cost is much higher. Its such a laugh if it wasn’t so shocking this lawsuit. The taxpayers should be suing Elsevier, not the reverse, and when all is said and done, and the lawmakers really look at who deserves ownership of publicly financed research, Elsevier will be wishing they never opened this bag of worms.

          1. Paul23 July, 2015

            Speaking as someone who works for a society scientific publisher, I can assure you that our salaries are not that high and there are a lot of set costs we have to pay unrelated to salary. What Elsevier has scale, which is what makes them profitable (and why Nature merged with Springer).

    2. LMW11 June, 2015

      Do you like to get paid for what you do at your job?

      1. fjtorres11 June, 2015

        It is also great to be paid for something you get for free.

  2. New Data, Same Slow Ebook Market | Digital Book World11 June, 2015

    […] Elsevier Fights on against Ebook Pirates (Ink, Bits & Pixels) The publisher files a lawsuit against several websites and search engines it believes to be facilitating the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. Not only is Elsevier hoping to shut those sites down, it’s also seeking damages. […]

  3. lol5 August, 2015

    you say, are your salaries low? as low as a postdoc? the most expensive part for professional societies, besides ‘low’ salaries is setting the infrastructure… for what? for the paywall.


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