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You Can’t Stop Pirate Libraries

Reason – “Where there’s demand for books, the internet will supply them. Shadow libraries exist in the space where intellectual property rights collide with the free-flowing exchange of knowledge and ideas. In some cases, these repositories of pirated books and journal articles serve as a blow against censorship, allowing those under repressive regimes to access otherwise verboten works. At other times, shadow libraries—a.k.a pirate libraries—function as a peer-to-peer lending economy, providing e-books and PDFs of research papers to people who can’t or won’t pay for access, as well as to people who might otherwise be paying customers. Are the proprietors of these pirate libraries freedom fighters? Digital Robin Hoods? Criminals? That depends on your perspective, and it may also differ depending on the platform in question. But one thing is certain: These platforms are nearly impossible to eradicate. Even a greatly enhanced crackdown on them would be little more than a waste of time and resources. Some of the biggest digital-age shadow libraries—including Library Genesis (or Libgen) and Aleph—have roots in Russia, where a culture of illicit book sharing arose under communism. “Russian academic and research institutions…had to somehow deal with the frustrating lack of access to up-to-date and affordable western works to be used in education and research,” the legal researcher Balázs Bodó wrote in the 2015 paper “Libraries in the Post-Scarcity Era.” “This may explain why the first batch of shadow libraries started in a number of academic/research institutions such as the Department of Mechanics and Mathematics…at Moscow State University.”

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