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Open Access

Learn more about Open Access and How it Impacts You!

What are "Pirate" Repositories?

In looking for journal articles, you may have run into a site called Sci-Hub or Library Genesis (LibGen).  Sci-Hub is a search engine that works with the large repository (LibGen) that gives researchers access to illegally obtained journal articles.  Sci-Hub sends a copy of the article to the requesting party and also deposits a copy of the article in the repository for future use.  In addition, the site uses the login credentials of university students and employees to bypass authentication barriers and access journal content to which the university has licensed content. Sci-Hub and LibGen are examples of what some people may call "pirate repositories," "pirate libraries," or even "shadow libraries" in which content is illegally obtained and access is through shady means. 

Sci-Hub and LibGen are not the first pirate repositories nor will they be the last.  In addition, pirate repositories are not limited to articles but also include books, eBooks, textbooks, and other published materials.  There are many potential sites that contain illegally obtained articles or other copyrighted works.  For example, ResearchGate and are two sites where articles can be shared, but sometimes content on these sites is not legally shared.  Z-Library is another example of a shadow library that was illegally posting books and eBooks.  These sites may appear to be harmless, but in reality you may not know under what conditions the materials are shared.  Sometimes, these places contain materials posted illegally, and  at other times, the author may innocently post their works believing that they have the right to do so.  The bottom line is that you may not always know where the materials are coming from that you find on these sites. 

Here are a few clues that you can use to help determine if you are looking at potentially illegal content.  Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and that if are unsure please Ask a Librarian!  

  • If you look at the margins (either sides or at the bottom) of the first page of an article or on a cover page, you may see a statement like this:
  • Authorized licensed use limited to: Minnesota State University-Mankato. Downloaded on November 19,2022 at 15:22:41 UTC from IEEE Xplore.  Restrictions apply.
  • This statement is taken from an article from one of the Library's databases (IEEE Xplore) that a librarian accessed legally after entering their log in credentials (StarID).  When the library purchases or subscribes to content (such as online articles) from a vendor (in this case IEEE), the library signs a license agreement that stipulates who can access the materials online.  The library pays for access, but this is not universal access.  It is access that is limited to a specific audience such as current students, staff, and faculty at the university.  The log in credentials that are used here (StarID) tell the vendor that the user was properly affiliated with the university and that they are okay to have access and use the materials.  Now, use here means that the article is used for personal reasons (such as writing a paper for a class), but it does not mean that the person can take the article and post it online for anyone to use.  This is restricted by the terms of the license with the vendor and a violation of U.S. Copyright Law. 
  • What is the publication date of the work that is posted freely online?  If the publication date is before 1927 and the work is published in the United States, U.S. Copyright Law states that the work has entered the Public Domain, meaning that the work now belongs to everyone and can be used with little restriction.  Any other publication date is subject to U.S. Copyright Law and the rights given to those who have ownership of a work.  Works published by other countries are subject to to any copyright laws of that country, which can vary from country to country and are different from U.S. Copyright Law.  
  • Does ths site ask you for personal information and/or log in information from your university?  If you are using library resources such as the databases found on our A-Z List, the resource will ask you for your StarID and StarID password.  This is a legitimate request.  BUT if you are going to any other website and it asks you for your log in information or person information or to pay for access, be wary!  Know where you are and never just blindly give out your information.  

How Does this Impact You?

Are there consequences if you use materials obtained from "pirate" repositories?

  1. Access to Library resources are governed by license agreements, by U.S. Copyright Law or other applicable laws, and by Minnesota State policies.  Violation of these agreements may result in legal liability as well as loss of access to resources. 

  2. Sharing your login credentials with unauthorized users (such as Sci-Hub) puts you at personal risk.  It gives others access to private and confidential information such as your Mavmail, E-Services, D2L, financial aid records and so much more.  Moreover, sharing your information violates Minnesota State Board Procedure 5.22.1 - Acceptable Use of Computers and Information Technology Resources and will result in disciplinary action, legal action, or both. 

What You Can Do!

When you encounter paywalls or sites asking you to pay for information, check out the library first!

  1. You will never need to pay for articles or other library materials while you are an enrolled student at Minnesota State University, Mankato.  All current students, faculty and staff can request materials via Interlibrary loan.  Interlibrary loan is a free service where the library will obtain copies of articles, books, and more at no charge to youVisit our page to learn more about Interlibrary loan
  2. Chat with a librarian to learn more about the many legal ways to obtain materials such as through our subscriptions to thousands of journals online or through eBooks and even print books held in the Library!  We spend a lot of money each year on subscriptions or purchasing library materials for you to use.  So before you download that illegal book or article, check with the librarian to see if we already have it in our collections. 
  3. If you are an author and you would like to share your work but you are not sure how to legally share your work or you are looking for places to share your work or ways to make it Open Access, ask a librarian first before you post that work online!  Librarians are here to help you find ways to disseminate your work via legitimate means.  

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