Black Open Access | Gdańsk University of Technology

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Black Open Access

Free access to paid scientific articles. “Black” refers to the various methods through which scientific articles or other content are shared illegally. In reference to the 2008 manifesto by Aaron Swarz, illegal access to scientific publications is also referred to as Guerrilla OA.

Black OA often involves ignoring copyrights and not paying the financial costs of processing an article. Black OA users use free access to digital versions of articles often without the authors’ knowledge and consent. The barriers created by publishers (subscriptions and fees) have led some users to seek alternative ways of accessing scientific content. Black OA emerged as a result of the growing demand for quick, easy and free access to scientific materials.    

It can take various forms, such as:

  • requesting the author of the article to provide a copy via the link to an institutional repository
  • sharing logins for subscribed content with an unauthorised person
  • sharing requests on Twitter (#icanhazpdf)
  • pirated content sites, such as Sci-Hub, LibGen and r / scholar

Black OA is a major threat to traditional publishing models (Bohannon, 2016). Most of the approximately 50% of the most recently published research articles are available after one year as illegal copies as part of Black OA (Björk, 2017). Academic social media (ResearchGate and and pirated content websites (Sci-Hub, LibGen and r / scholar) play a key role in popularising Black OA.