Open access, JSTORE, 35 years in prison, and a suicide
It is very sad news that Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist, committed suicide at the age of 26 in his apartment in New York. Swarts co-wrote RSS at the age of 14 and fought devotedly in his entire career for the freedom of information over the Internet. In 2011, he was charged with “illegally” downloading academic articles from JSTORE (in order to distribute them freely on P2P networks). In couple of weeks he was to go on trial, facing potential penalties of up to 35 years in prison and $ 1 million in fines.
I believe this tragic story concerns every one of us in the academia. It reminds us that in an age in which information technologies allow unlimited distribution of scholarly research at a negligible cost, the academic community should think more deeply and seriously about the possibility of open access publishing. Even though the number of open access journals is increasing in both natural and social sciences, the problem of “prestige” creates a disincentive for many scholars to send their articles to these newly founded open access journals. The only way to surpass this bottleneck is to submit articles to these journals and to play an active role in the proliferation of open access publishing. Especially established scholars in their respective fields could do a lot to “move prestige to open access” and so to open up the way for younger academics to follow their lead.
Department of Economics
Mesrutiyet Koyu, Universite Sok. No:2
Sile 34980, Istanbul Turkey