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Twitter Bans Sci-Hub's Account Because Of 'Counterfeit Goods' Policy, As Indian Copyright Case Heats Up

from the plainly-wrong dept

A couple of weeks ago, Techdirt wrote about an important copyright case in India, where a group of academic publishers is seeking a dynamic injunction to block access to the "shadow libraries" Sci-Hub and Libgen. The person behind Sci-Hub, Alexandra Elbakyan, has written to Techdirt with an update on the situation:

Sci-Hub account with 180K subscribers with almost everyone supporting it got BANNED on Twitter due to "counterfeit goods" policy. It existed for 9 years and it was frozen once, but I resolved it by uploading my passport scan. But now it is banned without the possibility to restore it, as Twitter support replied! And it happened right after Indian scientists revolted against Elsevier and other academic publishers, after Sci-Hub posted on Twitter about danger of being blocked - thousands of people spoke up against this on Twitter.

Now Twitter said to all of them, SHUT UP!

Although it's impossible at this stage to say whether Sci-Hub's Twitter account was closed as a direct result of action by Elsevier and other publishers, it is certainly true that the Indian copyright case has blown up into a major battle. The widely respected Indian SpicyIP site has several posts on the important legal and constitutional issues raised by the legal action. One of these concludes:

It can only be hoped that the court factors in the different considerations of a developing nation like India as against the developed nations where the defendant websites have presently been blocked, for it will have a massive impact on the research potential of the country.

While another goes further, and insists: "The ongoing litigation, therefore, must, on constitutional grounds if not copyright-related grounds, be decided in the favour of the defendants." Further support for Sci-Hub and Libgen has come from 19 senior Indian scientists and three organizations, and the Delhi High Court has agreed to allow them to intervene, as pointed out by TorrentFreak. In their application, the scientists wrote:

copyright is not merely a matter of private interests but an issue that deeply concerns public interest especially when it comes to access to learning materials... If the two websites are blocked it will effectively be killing the lifeline of research and learning in higher education in the country.

An organization called the Breakthrough Science Society has created a petition in favor of the defendants. The petition's statement says:

International publishers like Elsevier have created a business model where they treat knowledge created by academic research funded by taxpayers' money as their private property. Those who produce this knowledge -- the authors and reviewers of research papers -- are not paid and yet these publishers make windfall profit of billions of dollars by selling subscriptions to libraries worldwide at exorbitantly inflated rates which most institutional libraries in India, and even developed countries, cannot afford. Without a subscription, a researcher has to pay between $30 and $50 to download each paper, which most individual Indian researchers cannot afford. Instead of facilitating the flow of research information, these companies are throttling it.

Alexandra Elbakyan of Kazakhstan has taken an effective and widely welcomed step by making research papers, book chapters and similar research-related information freely available through her website Sci-Hub. Libgen (Library Genesis) renders a similar service. We support their initiative which, we contend, does not violate any norm of ethics or intellectual property rights as the research papers are actually intellectual products of the authors and the institutions.

As these comments from academics make clear, the stakes are high in the current legal action against Sci-Hub and Libgen. Against that background, shutting down Sci-Hub's Twitter account is ridiculous, since it is purely informational, and served as a valuable forum for discussing important copyright issues, including the Indian court case. Whatever you might think of the company's decision to suspend certain other accounts, this one is plainly wrong.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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Filed Under: academic research, content moderation, india
Companies: sci-hub, twitter


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2021 @ 5:32am

    In a sane world, this could only be caused by an ignorant and overzealous newbie. One who will be soon chewed out, less ignorant, and granted a more balanced amount of zeal.

    Would be nice to live in a sane world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 12 Jan 2021 @ 11:27am

      Re:

      why have a sane world when so many can make money on others efforts and Do little to earn it?
      Rather Sit on my bed, and watch the SMART people hand over THEIR ideas, and I make money from Everyone that wishes to see what OTHERS have created.
      And I love the Digital internet, as 1 copy can be use a billion times and Never wear out the pages.

      I bow, make funny faces as Veggies are thrown at me, and slowly wave as I walk off stage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 12 Jan 2021 @ 5:35am

    Masters Of The Universe

    Whatever you might think of the company's decision to suspend certain other accounts, this one is plainly wrong.

    But only "plainly wrong" to those who disagree with Twitter's decision, at least if you believe the theory that platforms can ban anyone they want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jilocasin (profile), 12 Jan 2021 @ 5:54am

    Twitter just wants to stay unblocked in India

    Sounds like Twitter is just concerned about ending up as collateral damage in India. SciHub isn't a hill they appear to want to risk dying on if if means being shut out of the billions of Indian users.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2021 @ 7:33am

    If there is a legitimate copyright issue at play in this case then Twitter technically did the right thing. Not morally, just technically. We've discussed slippery slopes recently here and this is one of them. Why would we expect Twitter or anyone else to treat one account differently than all the others? After all, rules are rules and they're important to a predictable, functioning society.

    Cutting off Sci Hub's Twitter account doesn't have any impact on access to Sci Hub at all. Sci Hub is still accessible (I presume, not stated in the article) and so are all of its "learning materials". That there is one less place to discuss, in 140 characters or less, those materials should not be that big an issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2021 @ 7:39am

      Re:

      so you are saying "the right thing" means only moderating the voice of a group that might be involved in copyright infringment (instead of, for example taking down the infringing content).

      That seems like murdering a town because their were rumors of an ugly baby there. (and for anyone who it's not obvious to: that's horrifying, stupid and vulgar.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 12 Jan 2021 @ 7:47am

      Re:

      Ah, but they didn't say anything about copyright. They said "Counterfeit Goods" which is a whole different thing, and clearly nonsense.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2021 @ 8:24am

        Re: Re:

        Probably some twisted logic that says that if it doesn't come from the "approved supplier" then it must be either stolen or fake.

        See also grey imports "yes it's real, it just isn't 'real' in this market".

        Got to love IP laws.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Slow Joe Crow (profile), 12 Jan 2021 @ 11:12am

    If Twitter is blocking copyright critics Techdirt will be next. I'm glad I never signed up so I never gave Jack Dorsey any revenue.
    Iam also appalled but unsurprised at the use of BS "counterfeit goods "as the excuse for banning

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2021 @ 1:18pm

    Well, Twitter's actions are pretty lame here, but scientists, of all people, should not be depending on Twitter. Use something decentralized or write your own. Corporations do whatever, and governments love restricting speech and especially the flow of scientific information, as well as allowing legacy industries to run the law.

    TBH i found a bit of a drop in the science communication / outreach sector when writers started using Twitter more. There was rather a drop in good blog article output if not a disappearance of blogs altogether. Sure it's hand for posting links, until there are less links to post that aren't right back to Twitter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2021 @ 3:24pm

      Re:

      Corporations do whatever, and governments love restricting speech and especially the flow of scientific information, as well as allowing legacy industries to run the law.

      Fun fact for those unaware: Governments also love using said law to shut down self-built initiatives that threaten the established incumbents at their behest.

      You can't build your own Internet. The infrastructure, financing, and number of people you'd need to sign on to it to make it useful, would certainly attract those in power seeking to ban you from the current one if yours even remotely showed signs of success. They would come for it and either tear it down, or force you off of it. Maybe a small darknet would be feasible, but that would be utterly pointless and counterproductive for what Sci-Hub is trying to do here.

      This is the result of people clamoring to force others into giving up their rights because people are offended at someone on the internet. Sure they started with those the internet in-general loathes, but as with all slippery slopes they started creeping toward their true goals. Now we get to see the fruits of our carelessness.

      Funnily enough, there were systems that enabled this specific kind of censorship on an individual basis years ago. Nanny software / browser plugins, and Content Filter proxies. Of course those were demonized to hell and back for "privacy" reasons, and tech companies did everything they could to render them as ineffective as they possibly could. Everything from PSAs using scare tactics and general lying, intentional breaking of proxies, to Certificate Pinning combined with Code Signing to enforce obscurity of the connections on the client devices. Now because attempting to filter crap on the client's side of things is considered "evil" and "signs of foul play" you have people demanding that others be silenced to achieve the same effect: "I don't want to see / hear their speech."

      Of course people could just choose to skip over things they might find offensive, or not click on the crap in the first place, but that would require some level of integrity and intelligence on the part of the public. Something which has also been under constant attack with sweet whispers of: "You're a user, you don't need to do anything or know how something works. It's an appliance. It should do everything for you." Now we have a bunch of arrogant fools. Intentionally created by those who seek to be their masters. Masters who are now proclaiming their arrival to rescue the arrogant from all of the evils in the world.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2021 @ 4:40pm

        Re: Re:

        Of course people could just choose to skip over things they might find offensive,

        When they appear in full in their interfaces to a service, that is somewhat difficult to do.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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