Elsevier, a large scientific American publisher, won a $15 million default judgement for copyright infringement against Sci-Hub and the Library of Genesis, two pirate websites that offer free downloads of tens of millions of scientific papers and books.
Alexandra Elbakyan, founder of Sci-Hub, did not appear at the trial which was in New York City. However, she sent a letter to the court stating her reasons for launching the website in 2011. While studying at a University in Kazakhstan she needed access to hundreds of scientific papers and could not afford to pay for them.
Sci-Hub connects to a database of stolen papers. If a user requests a paper in that database, Sci-Hub serves it up. If the paper is not there, Sci-Hub uses library passwords it has collected to find the paper, provides it to the searcher, and then adds it to the database.
To date, Elbakyan has made an estimated 50 million scholarly articles available on Sci-Hub. Many academics, university librarians and longtime advocates for open scholarly research are closely following her efforts. Both Sci-Hub and Library of Genesis are based in Russia.