In the Shadow Library · LRB 14 December 2022

“Last month, Z-Library – one of the world’s most popular ‘shadow libraries’, or unlicensed eBook databases – was shut down by the FBI. Two of its alleged operators, both Russian nationals, were arrested in Argentina on behalf of the US authorities and charged with criminal copyright infringement. Z-Library, which archived 11 million books and 84 million articles, had a good claim to being the largest resource of its kind, and had managed to skirt serious legal action since it first emerged as a replica, or mirror, of Library Genesis (LibGen) in 2009.

After the arrests, most of the domains associated with Z-Library were overwritten by an FBI seizure notice, but the repository was still accessible via Tor and other anonymising browsers. A few days after the official indictment the remaining Z-Librarians realised a statement. They expressed regret at the arrests and apologised to any writers who had ‘suffered’ because of the site, but stuck to the principles that had guided its creation. ‘We believe,’ they wrote, ‘that the knowledge and cultural heritage of mankind should be accessible to all people around the world, regardless of their wealth, social status, nationality [or] citizenship.’ The democratisation of knowledge, they maintained, was Z-Library’s ‘only purpose’. They quoted a few lines from Queen’s ‘The Show Must Go On’, and went silent….”