LIVE ONLINE: Aaron Swartz and the battle for Open Access
Categories: Community, Science & Technology
Aaron Swartz was considered a “Robin Hood” type hero among many, involved in the open access movement, which advocates the free, unrestricted dissemination of information through the internet.(Noah Berger/Reuters)It’s nearly one week since the tragic death of Aaron Swartz, a digital pioneer and activist who took his own life at the age of 26 under the shadow of a federal court case for “liberating” academic journal articles. If convicted, he was facing up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.Prosecutors allege that in 2010 Swartz illegally gained access to millions of articles through the database JSTOR after breaking into a network interface closet in the basement of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They say he had plugged his computer into the network and downloaded millions of articles before campus and local police caught him.Some say that he was intentionally ruining the economic value of the information, but supporters of the “open access movement,” which advocates the free, unrestricted dissemination of information, disagree.
Swartz was considered a Robin Hood-type hero among many academics and internet freedom fighters. They maintain that he was not stealing, but liberating the information kept in JSTOR for the public good.
With his death, one of the causes Aaron fought so passionately for has gained new momentum. More than 40,000 tweets have already been posted with the hashtag #pdftribute in honour of Swartz’s memory. Many of these tweets have links to academic researchers’ articles that have been posted for free online — the very issue that got Swartz into legal trouble.
We spoke to three experts about these issues via webcam in this week’s episode of Live Online:
Eva Vivalt: Orginator of the #PDFTribute hashtag and development economist.
Sarah Kendzior: Digital media analyst and communications scholar whose recent article about Swartz, titled “Academic Paywalls Mean Publish and Perish” argues for more access to academic information.
Theodore Claypoole: An expert in internet law and intellectual property.
The video can be viewed here