Social Science researchers move Delhi High Court to protect LibGen & SciHub

“A group of social science researchers have filed an intervention application, with legal support from IFF, highlighting the adverse impact any decision to block the websites will have on them.  A Joint Registrar of the Delhi High Court has issued notice on the application after hearing Ms Vrinda Bhandari, the counsel for the researchers, and has asked the Plaintiffs to file their reply within 4 weeks….

A group of seven social science researchers, affiliated with universities across Delhi and led by Ms Tejaswi Chhatwal, have filed an application highlighting the adverse impact any decision to block the websites will have on them. In the application, they have demonstrated the importance of the LibGen and Sci-Hub in enabling them to continue with research and discharge professional obligations. They have submitted that they cannot access countless essays/books/articles because of the exorbitant rates the publishers charge for them and that these publishers own more than 50% of the total output in social science research. The only way in which they can access these resources is by relying upon LibGen and Sci-Hub. Moreover, LibGen and Sci-Hub offer access to up-to-date research which is unavailable elsewhere. This is important because the social science field is one of constant evolution, debate and discussion where participants of the academic conversation belong to all parts of the globe. Failure to keep pace with constantly developing research renders the seven researcher’s output outdated.

The researchers stated that if the publishers’ plea of blocking these websites is granted, there will be a detrimental effect on social science research in India and the careers of social science researchers. Further, the researchers have submitted that blocking websites is not only against societal interests but is also against the law. While the publishers have a copyright in the literary work they own, the right is subject to provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957 (‘the Act’). Specifically, Section 52(1)(a)(i) of the Act permits fair dealing of any work if it is for research and Section 52(i)(i) permits reproduction of any work in the course of instruction. Since this is the case, the researchers have pointed out that accessing research is a matter of their ‘right’ rather than an ‘exception’.

In addition to the above, the researchers have contested the legal basis of the reliefs sought by the publishing houses. They have pointed out that the publishers have asked the court not to remove material that may infringe copyright, but instead to block these websites in their entirety. Such relief is disproportionate, violates the right of the researchers to access information and amounts to pre-publication censorship….”