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Piracy in Science World

Natalia Yashenkova
Natalia Yashenkova
Head of Marketing and PR at StarForce Technologies.

Natalia Yashenkova has more than 15 years experience in software development and information security. Before StarForce Technologies she worked at Netris and Vimcom Optic.

19 May 2016

Recently I hit on the article “Who's downloading pirated papers? Everyone”1 published in Science Journal. The author reveals the story of Sci-Hub, a pirate website where everyone could find and download articles from leading science journals. The statistics of downloads from September 2015 to February 2016is presented below:

As you can see the majority of downloads are from China, India, Iran. And what countries come next? Russia, U.S. and Brazil. So how it could be that such a rich country like U.S. has so many downloads of pirated content? Scientists from developing countries need to pay $30 for an article and their interest to the pirate website is clear. And American scientists as a rule are provided with free access to all science journals at the university libraries or via special internet websites. The answer is quite simple – it is more convenient to use Sci-Hub and download pirated papers.

The journalists prepared a survey and the first question showed that respondents didn’t see a problem in downloading pirated papers.

We can assume that the respondents were mostly young people who had scornfully attitude to a variety of behavioral and legal norms, but the hypothesis is also not confirmed.

The survey covered more than 10 thousand people and showed that all ages are obedient to piracy.

The conclusion is that there is piracy that can’t be justified by lack of money or moral principles. People just do it with no worries about consequences. And the main reason is usability of this pirate website provided for data acquisition.

To solve this situation we can move in two directions: the first is to increase punishment for paper illegal distribution and use and the second is to improve the usability of the legal access to win the competing with pirate websites.

About a year ago StarForce Technologies launched a project that allowed to provide internet access to National State Library. The task was difficult: on one hand we have to provide an opportunity to work with a book or an article for every internet user the way he or she could work with this book at the library. On the other hand the copyright law dictates some limitations including illegal copying and distribution.

The technical problem is the following – when a user opens a page or a document in his browser it means that this information is downloaded on the user’s PC and it can be saved, printed, copied, etc. The copyright law demands to protect some content from these kinds of activity.

For this project StarForce Technologies offered a series of measures aimed to protect documents and texts in HTML and PDF. A user installs a special program on his device (PC, tablet, mobile). This program prevents saving, printing and Print Screen using. But besides bans this program makes reading process convenient. It allows making bookmarks, comments, navigating through the content in the book, and using other features inherited from eBook readers. To conclude we can assume that a special viewer program is an advantage of the system, increasing the usability while working with book or science papers in digital format.

Learn more about National Electronic Library project.

Speaking about convenience I think it is great that you can open and read everything staying at home without need to visit the library. You don’t need to write down interesting information – you just open any book or paper and work in the rhythm you prefer.

If there are any difficulties with website with texts on it then it is possible to use documents in PDF. It can look like that:

Of course there are various methods for protection of books and papers. Technologies are developing all the time: people invent new authorization methods including social networks and state websites, protected documents can be opened on mobile devices and a user can share it with his friends with one click (obviously not the document itself but a link to it). And at the end I am glad to face pirate websites from time to time because they show how the system should work to be convenient for everybody.


  1. Who's downloading pirated papers? Everyone  
  2. In survey, most give thumbs-up to pirated papers

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