Getting access to journal articles can be quite expensive, in particular for those not affiliated with some University (even then, it's still expensive, it's just the uni paying the cost...).

A question asked on this site Why are most scientific articles locked behind a paywall? ponders why this is so. The answer is not convincing at all, it essentially says "that's just the way it is, pay up".

Well, if that is the way it is gonna by, then I am just going to torrent-download the articles. How could this possibly be unethical, if you guys yourselves, for no good reason and for the detriment of scientific inquiry, help support the monopoly that these journals have?

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    This question is a bit ranty in its current form. If there is something new to ask compared to the previous questions, it should be reformulated a bit, – Arno Jun 7 '18 at 12:37
  • Similar questions would be: using pirated software in your research, or getting electric power by tapping into the electric lines but not paying for it, also to support your research. Perhaps we have to draw the line somewhere. – GEdgar Jun 7 '18 at 13:56

Ethics is (by definition) personal or at least culture-dependent.

Personally, I think it is unethical to have publicly funded research results behind a paywall. That would make the answer to your question: No, it is not unethical to use websites like sci-hub. But that's just me and others may disagree.

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    To play devil's advocate here, what's behind that paywall is a product based on both publicly-funded research results and privately-funded editing, indexing, etc. efforts. If someone worked with a researcher to build a new kind of computer or phone or something, we wouldn't expect them to give it away for free. Nor would we expect an instructor to teach a course based on others' research for free. But certainly I agree the current system for publications is a dumb anachronism that should be discarded in favor of something either free or at least far cheaper. – A Simple Algorithm Jun 7 '18 at 12:25
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    @ASimpleAlgorithm The privately-funded contribution is so small compared to the amount of money the publishers are asking for/receiving that I'd feel comfortable rejecting your devil's argument. – Arno Jun 7 '18 at 12:35
  • @Arno I don't know that $25 or whatever is really so beyond the pale. – A Simple Algorithm Jun 7 '18 at 13:07

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