By offering free access to millions of ‘paywalled’ research papers, Sci-Hub is often described as “The Pirate Bay of Science”.
The site is used by researchers from all over the world to access papers they otherwise have a hard time accessing. For some, the site is essential to their work.
Major academic publishers such as Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society are not happy with the rogue research library. These companies have made billions of dollars selling access to research and see Sci-Hub as a direct threat to their business model.
The publishers have previously tried to shut down Sci-Hub through U.S. courts. While this resulted in favorable default judgments, Sci-Hub hasn’t gone away. The site’s audience continues to grow with millions of academics flocking to Sci-Hub.se every month.
Yesterday, however, the site’s Swedish domain name suddenly became unresponsive. The reasons for that were unclear, even Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan was taken by surprise.
After initially thinking of a DDoS attack, Elbakyan learned that the Swedish domain name had been deactivated by the domain name registry. As a result, the site is now unreachable.
“Yesterday I noticed problems when trying to open Sci-Hub website: at first, I was thinking that is some DDoS attack, but after checking again today, found out that http://sci-hub.se domain that was resistant for many years has been deactivated,” she wrote.
Sci-Hub.se’s domain status was changed to “ServerHold.” Set by the domain registry, this status effectively makes the domain unusable. Similar action was previously taken against other domains, including Fmovies.se.
To find out more, we reached out to The Swedish Internet Foundation, which manages Sweden’s .se domains, but at the time of publication, we haven’t heard back (update below). While no official explanation is available, it’s likely that the action was triggered by a copyright complaint.
Sweden’s domain registry was previously involved in a legal battle over thepiratebay.se ten years ago. At the time, CEO Danny Aerts called the effectiveness of these deactivations into question.
“Removing a domain name can be compared to taking down the signs hanging outside the shoe store. Although this would make it more difficult for customers to find the store, it would still be there,” Aerts said.
In the present case, Elbakyan doesn’t expect that the domain can be reinstated. Instead, she simply points followers to the alternative sci-hub.ru domain name, which remains accessible.
Update: The .se registry informed us that the owner of the domain received an email with all information needed. We’re trying to get more details on this from the owner and will update this article if that comes in.
Update 2: The .se domain was restored following a successful “ownership verification process.”