Major UK ISP TalkTalk is reporting that in response to an order from a court in the UK, it is now required to block subscriber access to Sci-Hub. The injunction is reportedly the result of an application by academic publishers Elsevier and Springer Nature, who have teamed up in other regions to block access to ‘The Pirate Bay of Science’.
While sites like The Pirate Bay receive almost universal condemnation outside of piracy circles, Sci-Hub regularly receives praise from academics. Since the ultimate goal is to further knowledge and education, including among those who can least afford it, Sci-Hub is often considered to be doing valuable work.
Courts, on the other hand, have yet to rule in the site’s favor so publishers including Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley have been pursuing relentless legal action against Sci-Hub and founder Alexandra Elbakyan in an effort to bring the platform to its knees.
Site-Blocking Emerges As Major Strategy
Pioneered by the music and movies industries, site-blocking is seen by copyright holders as an effective tool to reduce traffic to pirate platforms of all types, Sci-Hub included.
The practice commonly involves heading off to a local court in an effort to persuade a judge that Sci-Hub’s behavior represents a breach of copyright law. When a consensus is reached, the court issues an injunction compelling local ISPs to block various domains and/or IP addresses so that subscribers cannot reach them by regular means.
Several publishers have been involved in numerous similar actions against Sci-Hub in a number of countries (1,2,3,4), usually with quite a lot of fanfare before injunctions are handed down. However, it appears that another process in the UK has been flying under the radar.
UK ISP TalkTalk Quietly Announces New Injunction
TorrentFreak routinely monitors for new site-blocking activity in numerous countries but we were surprised to learn yesterday that Elsevier and Springer Nature have apparently teamed up to obtain an injunction in the UK, something that we believe is yet to become public knowledge.
At this stage, the news isn’t supported by lots of supporting detail but we have learned that UK ISP TalkTalk intends to block (or is perhaps already blocking) access to the Sci-Hub domain ‘sci-hub.se’. Additional information indicates that this was the result of an injunction handed down by a UK court on February 15, 2021.
The name of the court is not provided but if the pattern established over the past decade is maintained, the order will have been handed down by a judge at the High Court in 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 on the UK’s BAILII system do not reveal a judgment either, so we are expecting that in due course.
TalkTalk Will Not Be The Only ISP Targeted
At the time of writing, TalkTalk’s rival ISPs including Virgin Media, BT, Sky, EE and O2 are not reporting the existence of a blocking order but it seems extremely unlikely that they won’t be required to act against Sci-Hub under the same order.
Again, the exact details of the injunction are not yet publicly available but if a similar format is maintained by the High Court, it seems probable that all of Sci-Hub’s current domains will be subjected to blocking, not just the one listed by TalkTalk.
Indeed, if the trend of so-called ‘dynamic injunctions’ is maintained in this case, any new domains deployed by Sci-Hub in an attempt to circumvent blocking will be targeted too.
When we have access to the full decision we’ll report the specifics in detail but in the meantime, Sci-Hub has its hands full elsewhere too.
Publishers Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society are currently trying to have Sci-Hub blocked by ISPs in India. In that matter, the judge has agreed to accept interventions from 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 Elbakyan believes was related to the widespread support the site received from Indian users, including scientists. Twitter informed TorrentFreak that Sci-Hub’s account was suspended for violating the counterfeit policy and it had nothing else to add.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.