Opinion: Why Colleges Should Care about Z-Library’s Shut-Down and a Conversation on Free Access to Information

By Mikelyn Britt, Opinions Editor

Z-Library’s shutdown comes as a shock to many with college students scrambling to prepare for the end of the semester without the trusted free resources given by the site. While there are polarized arguments about the state of online piracy, the widespread upset of the site’s closing has brought up conversations about college affordability and access to information.

Z-Library was a shadow library project that offered scholarly texts, articles, and books to everyone completely free of cost. While the domain has held several names after other shutdown attempts, the project has been consistent since 2009. Many countries have filed suits against the company with two employees being issued arrests for copyright infringement last month being the last straw. The arrests are said to be facilitated by the FBI while a plethora of sites, including Amazon and Google, are said to have given data to the government as proof of the illegal activities. While two of the company’s extended domains have been shut down thus far, more have been popping up, but how long will this last with the fast-approaching legal battles of copyright infringement?

The main argument against Z-library’s existence comes from copyright infringement, but how do we rectify the limited access to materials for marginalized socioeconomic communities? Yes, it is important that individuals that make their livelihoods on such publications are able to receive the necessary funds from individuals buying their work. Yes, it is important that there is integrity in copyright laws. However, why is it okay that lower economic groups are left without such access to information? At what point does the lack of available educational materials for everyone become a big enough moral issue?

Within this line of thought, I raise the question of students’ economic standing in multi-million dollar universities. A large community of students has flooded the site for years to find free class materials. With the site’s shutdown, students are fighting to find affordable resources. Professors’ listing of mandatory texts leaves students’ pockets dry, even after paying the outrageous tuition fees for the semester. While some have started to introduce free online databases or sources free to the public domain, the majority of teaching staff still rely on college bookstores. Even when trying to buy all secondhand materials from the bookstore or secondary websites, costs are still bound to add up and add up quickly. 

 While the fall 2022 semester comes to a close, this may only seem to be an issue for a few more weeks, but it extends much farther. The spring semester is just around the corner and with it, more textbook costs. This is a call for all professors to become more conscientious of what they mandate students to purchase for their courses. Research alternatives from the available free public domain, digital classroom copies of texts, or utilizing Musselman Library’s course book reserves both online and physical copies. There are possible solutions. They just need to be implemented by professors in the classroom for all students to have fair access to required texts.

If you are someone struggling to pay for school materials, contact the financial aid department to see if you qualify for textbook funds.

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Author: Mikelyn Britt

Mikelyn Britt ’23 is the Opinions Editor of The Gettysburgian. She formerly worked as a staff writer for the features and opinion sections. She is an English with a writing concentration major and a peace and justice studies minor. Outside of the Gettysburgian, Mikelyn is a member of SASA (Students Against Sexual Assault) and worked as an intern for the Union County Food Hub on communications and marketing for fighting food insecurity in Pennsylvania. In her free time, Mikelyn enjoys traveling, writing, and working as a preschool assistant teacher.

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