Objectives: The world's largest scholarly literature pirate website, Sci-Hub, permits readers to bypass journal paywalls, thus facilitating no-cost copyright-infringing article downloads. We studied download characteristics of internationally pirated radiology journal articles.
Methods: All download request events between September 2015 and February 2016 were retrieved from Sci-Hub's public server logs. Focusing on high-impact factor radiology journals, we targeted uniquely identifiable diagnostic imaging and radiation oncology journals with a 2015 Thompson Reuters impact factor of ≥2. Pirated article download characteristics were assessed at the individual article, journal, and geographic level.
Results: Of all 27,819,965 pirated article downloads, 105,075 (0.4%) were from 49 radiology journals with high impact factor. Total monthly radiology downloads ranged from 6,715 to 24,449. Downloads were most frequent for papers from Radiology (10,357 of 105,075; 9.9%), NeuroImage (10,121; 9.6%), and the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology (8,025; 7.6%). The most downloaded articles were published in European Radiology, RadioGraphics, and NeuroImage. By country, download requests were most frequent from China (17,975 of 105,075; 17.1%), India (7,969; 7.6%), and Iran (7,327; 7.0%), but on a per capita basis, were most common in Portugal (210.8 per 1,000,000 population), Chile (135.4), and Tunisia (113.8). Only 4,450 (4.2%) of download requests were from the United States.
Conclusions: Copyright-infringing downloading of pirated radiology journal articles occurs frequently across the world and impacts nearly all top impact-factor journals. New publisher pricing and business models, akin to those for digital music, may be necessary to disincentivize pirating and ensure journal financial sustainability.
(Copyright © 2018 American College of Radiology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)