Skip to Main Content

Library Subject Guides

2. Find & Manage Research Literature: Pirated Journal Content

A guide to finding and managing your literature

Need an article?

There is a good chance the University Library will provide access:

  • Use MultiSearch to find content
  • Use Google Scholar to find Library subscribed content and legal open access material. Instructions for setting up fulltext@UC Library links to access UC Library subscribed content. 

If you still can't find the article you need, we will get it for you:

  • Request the item through the free Interlibrary loan service.    

More information

Gonzalez-Solar, L, & Fernandez-Marcial, V. (2019). Sci-Hub, a challenge for academic and research libraries. El Profesional de la Informacion, 28(1). 

Pitts, A. (2018, Sept 18). Think Sci-Hub is just downloading PDFs? Think again. Scholarly Kitchen. 

Smith, D. (2016, Feb 25). Sci-Hub: How does it work? Scholarly Kitchen.

What are pirated journal sites?

Sci-Hub and Lib-Gen (Library Genesis) are examples of piracy or shadow library websites that illegally circumvent institutional authentication barriers to provide access to journals and books. 

Sci-Hub is the most well known of these sites. Log-in credentials (usernames and passwords) of University staff and students are used to illegally bypass institutional authentication to provide access to journal content for which the University has licensed access. The exact methods Sci-Hub uses to obtain these log-in credentials is somewhat vague.  Individuals either voluntarily provide them to Sci-Hub or they are obtained through other means such as phishing.  

As these websites obtain material illegally, using them infringes copyright and license agreements between libraries and publishers. University IT Policy requires you to not violate copyright and not share your credentials with others.  Breaching this can have serious repercussions for your study. It also puts University I.T. systems at risk. 

We do not endorse illegally downloading material.  If you need an article, follow the advice in the left hand box (Need an article?) to find it legally.

Difference between Sci-Hub and Open Access

Open Access (OA) is free and legal online access to research and scholarly material. Content on Sci-Hub has been illegally obtained.  Pirate sites often call themselves "open access" but they are not "open access" according to the meaning as understood by academic publishers, researchers and librarians. SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) defines open access as "the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment". Scholarly open access conforms with copyright legislation and ethical use while enabling the information to be freely accessed. Websites like Sci-Hub violate copyright to provide access to material. 

 More information about Scholarly Open Access.