22 April 2014
In 2014, the vast majority of published biomedical research is still hidden behind paywalls rather than open access. For more than a decade, similar restrictions over other digitally available content have engendered illegal activity. Music file sharing became rampant in the late 1990s as communities formed around new ways to share. The frequency and scale of cyber-attacks against commercial and government interests has increased dramatically. Massive troves of classified government documents have become public through the actions of a few. Yet we have not seen significant growth in the illegal sharing of peer-reviewed academic articles. Should we truly expect that biomedical publishing is somehow at less risk than other content-generating industries? What of the larger threat—a “Biblioleaks” event—a database breach and public leak of the substantial archives of biomedical literature? As the expectation that all research should be available to everyone becomes the norm for a younger generation of researchers and the broader community, the motivations for such a leak are likely to grow. We explore the feasibility and consequences of a Biblioleaks event for researchers, journals, publishers, and the broader communities of doctors and the patients they serve.