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Do you research like a pirate?

by Laura Soito on 2017-09-19T07:40:00-06:00 in Library, Information Science

Do you talk research like a pirate? With International Talk Like a Pirate Day upon us, take a moment to consider the impact of digital piracy on scholarship.

Skull and crossbones

Chances are you’ve come across an article that the University Libraries doesn’t subscribe to, and in facing a paywall requesting $30+ you may have turned to Interlibrary Loan services or perhaps back to your favorite search engine to quickly find a freely available copy. With article in hand, you may not have considered whether the access you received was made available legally.

Guided by efforts to promote transparency and greater access to research, an increasing number of scholarly articles are freely available through legal means. A recent study has shown that around 19 million articles (or greater than 28% of the scholarly literature) are available through some form of Open Access, that is, steps have been taken to make the work freely available via the publisher or through a non-publisher repository like PubMed Central, arXiv.org or a local institutional repository. That said, other recent research shows even more articles are available through illegal, pirated collections like Sci-Hub (sometimes referred to as "black open access").

With libraries, including those at UNM, spending millions of dollars each year on providing access to journal articles and other research materials, publishers are paying attention. For example, IEEE briefly suspended UNM’s access to IEEE Xplorer this month, when unauthorized copies of content associated with UNM credentials were found online, and publishers Elsevier and the American Chemical Society have recently filed lawsuits against Sci-Hub. Response to piracy is changing the status quo, bringing new platforms, new file formats, and new processes for accessing information.  

We strive to provide everyone with the right “to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement” while preserving authors' rights to “moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production." On the way to finding this balance, you can do your part by checking out these resources on legally sharing and accessing scholarship.

Looking for more information on digital piracy and scholarship? Try:

Looking for legal access to research articles? Try:

Looking for ways to legally share access to articles? Try:


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