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The Kirtsaeng and SCI-HUB Cases: The Major U.S. Copyright Cases in the Twenty-First Century


There has been a plethora of substantive copyright cases in the history of the United States. Two of the most important cases in the last few years were: the Kirtsaeng case before the Supreme Court of the United States; and the SCI-HUB case before the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York. This paper addressed the key copyright issues raised in each case, including a discussion of relevant sections of the Copyright Law of the United States (17 U.S.C.) as well as suggestions the book and scholarly journal industries could consider addressing the insidious impact of copyright violations.

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  1. U.S. Const. art. 1 §8. Available at:

  2. U.S. Copyright Act of 1790 1 Statutes At Large, 124. Available at:

  3. U.S. Copyright Office. Circular 1a: “United States Copyright Office: A Brief Introduction and History;” available at www.copyright.goc/circs/circ1a.html.

  4. “The Copyright Act of 1976;” available at:

  5. “The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998;” available at

  6. The Copyright Office; 17 U.S.C.; available at

  7. “The Digital Millennium Copyright Act;” available at

  8. U.S. Supreme Court. Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339 (1908). Available at:

  9. Supreme Court of the United States. Syllabus. Kirtsaeng, DBA BlueChristine99 v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Case No. 11-697. Argued October 29, 2012. Decided March 19, 2013; available at Opinion of the Court. Supreme Court of the United States. Supap Kirtsaeng, DBA BlueChristine99 Petitioner v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. On Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. [March 19, 2013]. Justice Breyer delivered the majority opinion of the Court. See page 4 in Justice Breyer’s majority opinion for the Wiley 2008 copyright notice. The Majority Opinion is cited in the notes as Breyer. Available at:

  10. Breyer, pages 8–9.

  11. Breyer, page 9.

  12. Breyer, page 10.

  13. Breyer, page 11.

  14. Breyer, pages 11–12.

  15. Breyer, pages 19–20.

  16. Breyer, page 33.

  17. Supreme Court of the United States. No, 11-697. “Supap Kirtsaeng, DBA BlueChristine99 Petitioner v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.” On Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. [March 19, 2013]. Justice Ginsburg, dissenting, with whom Justice Kennedy joins, and with whom Justice Scalia joins except as to Parts III and V-B-1, dissenting. The minority opinion is cited as Ginsburg in the notes. Available at:

  18. Ginsburg, pages 5–6.

  19. Ginsburg, pages 6–7.

  20. Ginsburg, page 10.

  21. Ginsburg, page 18.

  22. Ginsburg, pages 25–26.

  23. U.S. Supreme Court. Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339 (1908). Available at:

  24. United States District Court Southern District of New York. Elsevier Inc., Elsevier B.V., Elsevier LTD. Plaintiffs, v. Sci-Hub d/b/a, The Library Genesis Project d/b/a, Alexandra Elbakyan, John Does 1-99, Defendants. Index No. 15-cv-4282 (RWS). A complete list of all of the documents related to this case are available at,:

  25. Ibid., page 1.

  26. Ibid., pages 2–3.

  27. Ibid., pages 7–8.

  28. Ibid., page 8.

  29. Ibid., page 9.

  30. United States District Court Southern District of New York. Case No. 1:15-cv-0428RWS. Elsevier Inc. et. al. v. Sci-Hub et. al.; Document 50; page 1.

  31. Ibid., page 1.

  32. Ibid., page 1.

  33. Ibid., page 2.

  34. United States District Court Southern District of New York. Elsevier Inc., Elsevier B.V., and Elsevier LTD. Plaintiffs against, The Library Genesis Project, d/b/a, Alexandra Elbakyan, and John Does 1-99, Defendants. 15 Civ. 4282(RWS). Opinion; October 30, 2015; pages 4–5.

  35. Ibid., pages 5–6.

  36. Ibid., page 6.

  37. Ibid., page 7.

  38. Ibid., page 8.

  39. Ibid., page 9.

  40. Ibid., page 10.

  41. Ibid., page 10.

  42. Ibid., page 14.

  43. Ibid., page 16. Also see Sarah Howes. “Sci-Hub Is Not in the Public Interest, Says Court;” available at

  44. Anon. “Meet the Robin Hood of Science;” at

  45. Simon Oxenham. “Exclusive: Robin Hood Neuroscientist Behind Sci-Hub Research Pirate Site Talks to RT;” available at Also see the Sci-Hib web site’ available at Also see Jacob Schmidt. “High Academic Journal Prices Justify Sharing of Articles Illegally;” available at; Julia Belluz. “Meet Alexandra Elbakyan, The Researcher Who’s Breaking the Law to Make Science Free for All;” at

  46. Kate Murphy. “Should All Research Papers Be Free?” The New York Times; March 12, 2016; available at

  47. John Willinsky. “Sci-Hub: Research Piracy and the Public Good,” The Times Higher Education; available at https://www.timeshighereducation/com/blog/sci-hub-research-piracy-and-public-good.

  48. Wayne Bivens Tatum. “Sci-Hub and Information Apartheid;” available at

  49. Dusan Barok, Josephine Berry, Bodo Balzas, Sean Dockray, Kenneth Goldsmith, Anthony Hes, Lawrence Liang, Sebastian Lutgert, Pauline van Mourik Broekman, Marcel Mars, Spideralex, Tomislav Medak, Dubravka Sekulic, and Femke Snelting. “In Solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub;” available at

  50. Paul St. John Mackintosh. “Copyright is Colonialism: Polish Internet Guru Speaks;” available at

  51. Kevin Smith. “Some Radical Thoughts About Sci-Hub;” available at

  52. Ryan Merkley. “You Pay to Read Research You Fund, That’s Ludicrous;” available at

  53. John Dupuis. “Confessions of a Science Librarian: The Sci-Hub Story So Far: Main Event or Sideshow;” available at

  54. Alexey Tereshchenko. “Pirate Research Papers Website Asks for Bitcoin Donations;” available at

  55. Paul Noonan. “Copyright Infringement As Theft,” Intellectual Property Forum 105(June 2016): 26-34. Also see Stephen E. Siwek. “Copyright Industries in the U.S. Economy: The 2014 Report.” International Intellectual Property Alliance; available at

  56. Michelle Castillo. “Online Piracy, Ad Fraud Cost U.S. Media Firms $8.2 Billion a Year: Report;” available at:

  57. Mark Bartholomew. “Cops, Robbers, and Search Engines: The Questionable Role of Criminal Law in Contributory Infringement Doctrine;” available at: Also see Patrick R. Gold. “Is Copyright Infringement a Strict Liability Tort? Berkeley Technology Law Review 30, 1(2015): 305–384; Melis Atalay. “Regulating the Unregulable: Finding the Proper Scope for Legislation to Combat Copyright Infringement on the Internet,” Hastings Communications & Entertainment Law Journal 36, 1(Winter 2014): 167–191.

  58. Maxwell S. Kennerly. “The Jurisdiction Problem in Elsevier’s Lawsuit Against Sci-Hub;” available at Also see Quirin Schlermeier. “Pirate Research-Paper Sites Play Hide-and-Seek With Publishers;” available at; Paul Goldstein, Lawrence Hadley, David Kendall, Carl Oppedahl, and Rufus Pichler. “Copyright’s Long Arm: Enforcing U.S. Copyright Abroad,” 24 Loyola Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review 45(2004): 45–72; available at:; Daria Kim. “Special Report: Russia’s Enforcement Against Online Copyright Infringement;” available at; Addie T. Katz. “The Merging of Black and Gray: International Copyright Infringement in the Post-Kirtsaeng Era,” Hofstra Law Review 43, 2(Winter 2014): 291–323; David R. Toraya. “Federal Jurisdiction Over Foreign Copyright Infringement Actions—An Unsolicited Reply to Professor Nimmer,” 70 Cornell Law Review 1165(1985): 1165–1193; available at:

  59. Arif E. Jimha. “Article 50 Million: An Estimate of the Number of Scholarly Articles in Existence,” Learned Publishing 23, 3(July 2010): 258–263.

  60. Andy Greenberg. “An Interview with the Hacker Probably Selling Your Password Right Now;” available at:; Greenberg interviewed a hacker called “Peace” who “sells data on the dark web black market ‘the Real Deal’…. Peace’s growing collection of merchandise includes 167 million user accounts from LinkedIn, 360 million from MySpace, 68 million from Tumblr, 100 million from the Russian social media site, and most recently another 71 million from Twitter, adding up to more than 800 million accounts and growing.” Also see Andy Greenberg. “New Dark-Web Market Is Selling Zero-Day Exploits to Hackers;” available at: “One [hacker web operation] with a price tag of $17,000 in bitcoin claims to be a new method of hacking Apple iCloud accounts….” Also see American Chemical Society. “We Have Reason to Believe That Your Organization Could Be Potentially Targeted for a Cyber-Attack;” at:; Jack Ochs. “Guest Post: The American Chemical Society on the Shared Cybersecurity Concerns of Universities and Publishers;” at:–jack-ochs-on-the-shared-cybersecurity-concerns-of-universities-and-publishers; Cornell University. “Important Security Information regarding Cornell Payroll;” available at: http://news.cornell.edy/stories/2016/06/important-security-information-regarding-cornell-payroll; Carrie Russell and Ed Sanchez. “Sci-Hub Unmasked,” College & Research Libraries News (March 2016): 122–125; Kaveh Waddell. “The Research Pirates of the Dark Web;” available at:; Chris Woolston. “Paper Piracy Sparks Online Debate;” available at:

  61. Association of American Publishers. “AAP Statement on Sci-Hub: May 10, 2016;” at:; Association of American Publishers. “Promoting Fair Use and Open Markets;” available at:; Association of American Publishers. “Statement on Libgen/Sci-Hub Complaint;” at:; American Association for the Advancement of Science. “Science News Story on Sci-Hub Provides Detailed View of User Base; related Editorial;” available at

  62. The United Nations. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;” available at:; pages 7–8.

  63. Ibid., page 4.

  64. Ibid, page 4.

  65. John Bohannon. “How to Hijack a Journal;” available at:

  66. Ibid., page 4.

  67. Ibid., page 8. Also see Marcia McNutt. “My Love-Hate of Sci-Hub,” Science 352, 6285 (April 29, 2016), page 497; Darek Lowe. “Thoughts on Sci-Hub;” available at:; Michael S. Rosenwald. “This Student Put 50 million Stolen Research Articles Online. And They’re Free,” The Washington Post; March 30, 2016; available at:’re-free; Michael S. Rosenwald. “Who’s Reading Millions of Stolen Research papers on the Outlaw Website Sci-Hub? Now We Know,” The Washington Post, April 28, 2016; available at:’s-reading-millions-of-stolen-research-papers-on-the-outlaw-website-sci-hub-now-we-know; Angela Cochran. “Looking for Pirates in the Sea of Content;” available at; Rebecca Reznik-Zellen. “What Sci-Hub Does Not Do;” available at:

  68. Phil Davis. “Detecting (and Stopping) Robot Pirates;” available at: .

  69. Richard Van Noorden. “Nature Promotes Read-Only Sharing by Subscribers,” Nature, December 2, 2014; available at: sharing-by subscribers-1.16460.

  70. Imke Reimers. “Can Private Copyright Protection Be Effective? Evidence from Book Publishing,” SSRN; May 13, 2016; available at; Also see Stephen E. Siwek. “The True Cost of Copyright Industry Piracy to the U.S. Economy,” Institute for Policy Innovation, Policy report 189 (October 2007), pages 1–22; available at

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Correspondence to Albert N. Greco.

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Greco, A.N. The Kirtsaeng and SCI-HUB Cases: The Major U.S. Copyright Cases in the Twenty-First Century. Pub Res Q 33, 238–253 (2017).

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  • U.S. Copyright Law
  • 17 U.S.C.
  • Copyright infringement
  • Kirtsaeng
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • Book publishers
  • Scholarly journal publishers