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UK ISP TalkTalk has reported that in response to a court order in the UK, it is now required to block subscriber access to Sci-Hub. The injunction is said to be the result of a request by academic publishers Elsevier and Springer Nature, who have collaborated in other regions to block access to “The Pirate Bay of Science.”
While sites like The Pirate Bay receive nearly universal condemnation outside of piracy circles, Sci-Hub regularly receives praise from academics. Since the ultimate goal is to increase knowledge and education, including among those who cannot afford it, Sci-Hub is often seen as doing valuable work.
On the other hand, the courts have not yet ruled in favor of the site, so publishers including Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley have taken relentless legal action against Sci-Hub and its founder Alexandra Elbakyan in a bid to bring the platform to its knees.
The emergence of blocking websites as a major strategy
Pioneering in the music and movie industries, copyright holders view site blocking as an effective tool to reduce traffic to piracy platforms of all kinds, including Sci-Hub.
This practice usually involves going to a district court in an attempt to convince a judge that Sci-Hub’s conduct is a violation of copyright law. When consensus is reached, the court issues an injunction that forces local ISPs to block various domains and/or IP addresses so that subscribers cannot reach them by normal means.
Several publishers have engaged in many similar actions against Sci-Hub in a number of countries (1,2,3,4), usually with great fanfare before injunctions are issued. However, it appears that another UK operation has been flying under the radar.
UK ISP TalkTalk is quietly announcing a new order
TorrentFreak routinely monitors new site-blocking activity in several countries, but we were surprised to learn yesterday that Elsevier and Springer Nature have apparently teamed up to get an injunction in the UK, something we believe isn’t yet known.
At this point, the news isn’t backed up by much supporting detail, but we’ve learned that UK ISP TalkTalk intends to block (or may actually block) access to the Sci-Hub domain “sci-hub.se”. Additional information indicates that this was the result of an injunction issued by a British court on February 15, 2021.
The name of the court was not given but if the pattern established over the past decade had been maintained, the order would be issued by a judge in the High Court of London.
TorrentFreak contacted TalkTalk’s press office during Wednesday for additional information, but at the time of writing, we have yet to receive a response. Records in the UK’s BAILII system do not reveal a ruling either, so we expect that in due course.
TalkTalk will not be the only target of the ISP
At the time of writing, TalkTalk’s rival ISPs including Virgin Media, BT, Sky, EE and O2 have not reported a ban order but it seems highly unlikely that they will not be required to act against Sci-Hub under the same order. . ranking.
Again, the exact details of the injunction are not yet publicly available, but if the Supreme Court maintains a similar format, it seems likely that all existing Sci-Hub domains will be blocked, not just the one listed by TalkTalk.
In fact, if the trend of the so-called “dynamic commands” is maintained in this case, any new domains that are published by Sci-Hub will also be targeted in an attempt to circumvent the ban.
When we can come to the full resolution, we’ll report back in detail but in the meantime, Sci-Hub has its full hand elsewhere as well.
Publishers Elsevier, Wiley and the American Chemical Society are currently trying to ban Sci-Hub by ISPs in India. In this matter, the judge agreed to accept the input of interested parties who believe that any blocking of Sci-Hub would not be in the public interest.
Finally, Sci-Hub was banned from Twitter last month, something Alexandra Albakyan believes is related to the widespread support the site has received from Indian users, including scientists. Twitter TorrentFreak has reported that the Sci-Hub account has been suspended for violating its forgery policy and has nothing else to add.