Jumping over the paywall: Strategies and motivations for scholarly piracy and other alternatives

Despite the advance of the Open Access (OA) movement, most scholarly production can only be accessed through a paywall. We conduct an international survey among researchers (N=3,304) to measure the willingness and motivations to use (or not use) scholarly piracy sites, and other alternatives to overcome a paywall such as paying with their own money, institutional loans, just reading the abstract, asking the corresponding author for a copy of the document, asking a colleague to get the document for them, or searching for an OA version of the paper. We also explore differences in terms of age, professional position, country income level, discipline, and commitment to OA. The results show that researchers most frequently look for OA versions of the documents. However, more than 50% of the participants have used a scholarly piracy site at least once. This is less common in high-income countries, and among older and better-established scholars. Regarding disciplines, such services were less used in Life & Health Sciences and Social Sciences. Those who have never used a pirate library highlighted ethical and legal objections or pointed out that they were not aware of the existence of such libraries.

Francisco Segado-Boj, Juan Martin-Quevedo, Juan-Jose Prieto-Gutierrez


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