The Latest File-Sharing Piracy: Academic Journals

Illicit file sharing isn’t just for kids these days. Once mainly used for downloading pirated music, sites have sprung up on the Internet that allow free swapping of academic journals (think Napster’s younger dweeby brother).

A new study, published in the Internet Journal of Medical Informatics, looks at a site aimed specifically at medical professionals and students and finds that thousands of people were obtaining non-open-access materials free of charge. The article says that in a six-month period of watching the unnamed site, nearly 5,500 articles were exchanged, costing journals about $700,000 in that time, or about $1.4-million a year.

The site had 127,626 registered users, who during the study period put in requests for 6,587 journals. There was an 83 percent success rate in finding the article. Nature and Science were the most commonly swapped journals.

The article does not focus on the ethical implications but does say, “In the field of medicine, ethics plays a pivotal role, and yet the site displays activities by medical students, teachers, and practicing professionals that are ethically dubious.”

Wired Campus reported earlier this week about another attempt to give more access to subscription journal articles. This effort, called Deep Dyve, is a legal rental program that allows users to access articles for a set amount of time with a fee.

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