Representative image of magazines placed on the shelf. Photo: yeaki/Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

A group of academics from across India signed a statement urging the Delhi High Court to rule against three publishers who petitioned the court to gain access to banned Sci-Hub and Libgen in India. Sci-Hub and Libgen are two services that allow users to access scientific literature for free. The papers themselves are often behind a firewall on the websites of the original publishers, with price tags often out of reach of scholars both in India and around the world. The Sci-Hub case thus became a referendum on the profit-seeking practices of academic publishing.

The full academic statement is published below.

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The ongoing attempt by an international group of highly profitable publishers to shut down Sci-Hub and LibGen is an assault on the ability of scholars and students to access knowledge.

We urge the Delhi High Court to consider that Sci-Hub and Libgen have opened the world of knowledge and helped to unleash the imagination of students in India. Universities in the Global South have far fewer resources than their counterparts in the North. Sci-Hub and Libgen have played a vital role in enabling Indian universities to keep pace with the latest research across the world. Open access to scientific knowledge points the way to the future.

We also urge the courts to recognize that scholarly publications are the result of research that is not funded by private publishers. Furthermore, critical components of the publication process – peer review and editing – are carried out free of charge by scholars on the grounds that they help advance the cause of rigorous knowledge production.

However, publishers charge as much as $30 to $50 per article and $2,000 to $35,000 per magazine title. Based on such exorbitant prices, large academic publishers make big profits. In 2019, for example, Elsevier’s operating profit was $1.3 billion and Wiley $338 million. Elsevier’s profit margins are as high as 35-40%.

Given this, the leading American and European universities are currently refusing to sign up for Elsevier due to its extortionate practices. Scientists, government financiers, and large corporations increasingly felt that these conglomerates impeded scientific progress.

On the other hand, websites like Sci-Hub and LibGen are expanding access and scientific advancement. About 66% of respondents to a survey conducted at top-ranked Indian universities said they rely heavily on Sci-Hub. During the pandemic, that percentage rose to 77%. A 2016 analysis found that Indian scientists downloaded 3.4 million papers over a six-month period from the Sci-Hub website. If downloaded legally, it would cost $100-125 million. This is more than half of what all research institutes in India cumulatively spend on subscriptions to scientific literature prohibited to pay.

To learn more about the information mentioned in the petition, visit:

1. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02708-4

2. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/04/whos-downloading-pirated-papers-everyone

3. https://spicyip.com/2021/01/the-sci-hub-case-why-it-is-time-to-stop-favoring-the-doctrinal-approach-to-law-over-an- One demo. html

4. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-06-30/covid-19-shows-scientific-journals-like-elsevier-need-to-open-up

5. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/02/the-research-pirates-of-the-dark-web/461829/

6. https://libraries.mit.edu/scholarly/publishing/elsevier-fact-sheet/

7. https://newsroom.wiley.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2020/Wiley-Reports-Fourth-Quarter-and-Fiscal-Year-2020-Results/

8. https://www.relx.com/investors/annual-reports/2019

As participants in the global scholarship community, we urge publishers to withdraw suit and court to stand against the extortionate practices of publishing companies that profit from the unpaid work of the global academic community and impede the free flow of knowledge and vital new discoveries.

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