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Science’s Robin Hoods

Hackers take to downloading academic articles and making them freely available on the Web.

By | July 26, 2011

WWW.CELALTEBER.COM

Earlier this month, the US Attorney's Office came down on 24-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student Aaron Schwartz for hacking into MIT’s computer network and downloading more than 4 million scientific journal articles from the online journal archive, JSTOR. Schwartz, who intended to make the articles freely available on the Web, was charged with wire fraud, computer fraud, and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, among other charges, and will face up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

In an online manifesto he wrote in 2008, Schwartz had called upon everyone with access to journal databases, such as JSTOR, and reminded them of their “duty” to share the content (most of which lies behind a paywall) with the world. “We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks,” he wrote.

With the news of his indictment, others who share his cause have followed suit. According to ScienceInsider, another hacker by the name of Greg Maxwell has uploaded more than 18,000 academic articles to the file sharing site Pirate Bay as an act of "solidarity" for Schwartz and against the “poisonous industry” of academic publishing.

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Avatar of: Guest

Anonymous

July 26, 2011

good! the vast majority of this work was paid for by taxpayers... this is hte justification for PMC and current open access policies. hard to see how the results fo older work, similarly paid for, does not ethically belong to the taxpayersl'

of course, as always, 'ethical' and 'legal' are two different things. i am sure the powers that be will do everythngthey can to slow the inevitable.

wouldn't it have been a wonderful work if the monks would have smashed gutenberg's invention? no good can come the common people having access to knowledge...

Avatar of: rusty94114

rusty94114

Posts: 9

July 26, 2011

It is outrageous that the publishers of scientific journals should charge large fees for access to the information that these journals contain. The publishers did not write the articles, they did not do the research that gave rise to the articles, and they did not support the research financially. Yet, in effect, they have been granted ownership of the results of the research.

In the case of medical journals, the outlandish fees being charged to view research articles is a significant impediment to researchers on limited research budgets. In the long run, this situation results in slower medical progress, unnecessary suffering, and lost lives.

The situation, in my opinion, is the fault of researchers who persist in publishing their work in unscrupulous, hoity-toity journals instead of open-access publications.

I am pleased to learn that a few brave individuals are now fighting back against the system.

Avatar of: Hill

Anonymous

July 26, 2011

Private publishers routinely sell digital copies of works online for which they do not hold electronic copyright.  The original authors of these publications would want them to be disseminated at no charge, as they were not paid for their work.  When is the government going to prosecute these publishers for their looting?

Avatar of: crl

Anonymous

July 26, 2011

Hacking is a serious offence in most countries because it can have serious consequences. There doesn't seem to be a way of making exceptions for cases, such as the present one, where there is no legally acceptable way of putting and end to illegitimate profiteering from public research funding.

The risk taken by Aaron Schwartz might have been less had he operated from a country that doesn't have a similarly profiteering jail industry.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

July 26, 2011

good! the vast majority of this work was paid for by taxpayers... this is hte justification for PMC and current open access policies. hard to see how the results fo older work, similarly paid for, does not ethically belong to the taxpayersl'

of course, as always, 'ethical' and 'legal' are two different things. i am sure the powers that be will do everythngthey can to slow the inevitable.

wouldn't it have been a wonderful work if the monks would have smashed gutenberg's invention? no good can come the common people having access to knowledge...

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

July 26, 2011

It is outrageous that the publishers of scientific journals should charge large fees for access to the information that these journals contain. The publishers did not write the articles, they did not do the research that gave rise to the articles, and they did not support the research financially. Yet, in effect, they have been granted ownership of the results of the research.

In the case of medical journals, the outlandish fees being charged to view research articles is a significant impediment to researchers on limited research budgets. In the long run, this situation results in slower medical progress, unnecessary suffering, and lost lives.

The situation, in my opinion, is the fault of researchers who persist in publishing their work in unscrupulous, hoity-toity journals instead of open-access publications.

I am pleased to learn that a few brave individuals are now fighting back against the system.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

July 26, 2011

Private publishers routinely sell digital copies of works online for which they do not hold electronic copyright.  The original authors of these publications would want them to be disseminated at no charge, as they were not paid for their work.  When is the government going to prosecute these publishers for their looting?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

July 26, 2011

Hacking is a serious offence in most countries because it can have serious consequences. There doesn't seem to be a way of making exceptions for cases, such as the present one, where there is no legally acceptable way of putting and end to illegitimate profiteering from public research funding.

The risk taken by Aaron Schwartz might have been less had he operated from a country that doesn't have a similarly profiteering jail industry.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

July 26, 2011

good! the vast majority of this work was paid for by taxpayers... this is hte justification for PMC and current open access policies. hard to see how the results fo older work, similarly paid for, does not ethically belong to the taxpayersl'

of course, as always, 'ethical' and 'legal' are two different things. i am sure the powers that be will do everythngthey can to slow the inevitable.

wouldn't it have been a wonderful work if the monks would have smashed gutenberg's invention? no good can come the common people having access to knowledge...

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

July 26, 2011

It is outrageous that the publishers of scientific journals should charge large fees for access to the information that these journals contain. The publishers did not write the articles, they did not do the research that gave rise to the articles, and they did not support the research financially. Yet, in effect, they have been granted ownership of the results of the research.

In the case of medical journals, the outlandish fees being charged to view research articles is a significant impediment to researchers on limited research budgets. In the long run, this situation results in slower medical progress, unnecessary suffering, and lost lives.

The situation, in my opinion, is the fault of researchers who persist in publishing their work in unscrupulous, hoity-toity journals instead of open-access publications.

I am pleased to learn that a few brave individuals are now fighting back against the system.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

July 26, 2011

Private publishers routinely sell digital copies of works online for which they do not hold electronic copyright.  The original authors of these publications would want them to be disseminated at no charge, as they were not paid for their work.  When is the government going to prosecute these publishers for their looting?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

July 26, 2011

Hacking is a serious offence in most countries because it can have serious consequences. There doesn't seem to be a way of making exceptions for cases, such as the present one, where there is no legally acceptable way of putting and end to illegitimate profiteering from public research funding.

The risk taken by Aaron Schwartz might have been less had he operated from a country that doesn't have a similarly profiteering jail industry.

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