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 academia.edu 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!
Are there consequences if you use materials obtained from "pirate" repositories?
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.
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.
When you encounter paywalls or sites asking you to pay for information, check out the library first!