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Cloudflare terminates Sci-Hub’s account following piracy ruling

By | Published on Wednesday 7 February 2018


Internet services firm Cloudflare has terminated the account linked to several domain names used by Sci-Hub, the academic paper sharing platform that is sometimes referred to as the “Pirate Bay of science”.

Last year Sci-Hub was sued by the American Chemical Society for distributing papers published by that organisation without licence. Although not a music case, it was an interesting lawsuit in that the final ruling in ACS’s favour seemed to provide the framework for the plaintiff to seek web-blocks in the US.

Web-blocking, where rights owners get injunctions forcing internet service providers to block their customers from accessing copyright infringing websites, are common place in countries like the UK, but have never been previously instigated in the US. Attempts to introduce a specific web-blocking law Stateside in 2012 proved very controversial indeed.

The fact that the ACS v Sci-Hub ruling seemed to provide some web-blocks was therefore significant. Though ACS itself insisted that it wasn’t seeking those kinds of sanctions, and would instead use its court order to force domain registries, hosting companies and firms like Cloudflare to stop providing services to the piracy site.

Cloudflare has been criticised by a number of copyright owners, and especially the record companies, for providing services to piracy sites. Though it always insists that it can only terminate the accounts of copyright infringing set-ups on the back of a court order, and not just on the say so of any one copyright owner.

The ACS v Sci-Hub ruling last November provided that court order, which is why the piracy site’s Cloudflare account has now been terminated. Sci-Hub tweeted a copy of its termination alert from Cloudflare last weekend, stating “This is not critical but may cause a short pause of website operation”.

Of course, the fact moves of this kind usually only result in a “short pause” of operations for targeted piracy sites is why some people argue anti-piracy tactics of this kind aren’t worth pursuing. Although most copyright owners argue that any measures that hinder such sites, or put hurdles in the way for people seeking to access them, are worthwhile.