I'm not sure if you know who Alexandra Elbakyan is, but she is definitely someone that you should know of if you are in college or academia. In case you have not googled her name, she is the owner and creator of a site called Sci-hub. If Bittorrent and Napster were hailed as platforms where one can share shows and music for free, sci-hub is the academic version of BitTorrent and Napster.
The Hidden Costs of Education
After my stint completing my PhD, its safe to say that I've been to University for at least 3 times? One for my undergraduate program, twice for my postgraduate programs. After studying in a few different universities, one service that you should definitely check out is to see if they provide you access to academic journals.
If you are unsure, hop on to Google scholar at your university and if you can access those paid journals, you're in luck! However, there are institutions that do not provide such access. This is because subscription to these services can be very costly.
For perspective, if I were to pay for a few journals via Google scholar, the total would cost me around 2 years of subscribing to a Netflix account. Now, I know that depends on what journals I were to access. However, its not cheap. That is why certain less able students have not been able to fare as well when knowledge has a rather steep price on it.
This is when Sci-Hub comes in. What Sci-Hub has done is to offer all these paid journals for free. So all you have to do on sci-hub is to search sci-hub on google, find a link of one of those paid Google scholar articles and search for it on sci-hub. It will only take a few minutes and that expensive article that may cost you is suddenly free. Awesome right?
If you ever want to go in depth and check out a good video listed below. The video also includes an interview with the creator.
In the video you will find that big conglomerates have been out to sue sci-hub. That is understandable seeing that sci-hub has cost many big publishing houses quite a fair bit of money. While it is easy to go about blaming big corporations for their greed, it is not unfounded.
The Dark Side of Sci-Hub
I have found a few articles speaking about how sci-hub is achieving this. One of these methods is through the use of hacking and phishing methods. This was done by pushing and hacking users for their login access to access these paid journals. You can check out the article here if you want, but suffice to say that they are not getting free articles for you through some magical legal means.
So this presents an interesting conundrum. If you are not able to afford or gain access to paid articles, what then should you do? Some may prefer to go the "blameless" route, but I on the other hand prefer the more morally grey route. =)