The Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto

The Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

Aaron Swartz
July 2008, Eremo, Italy

 

 

The Open Access Movement

The Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto is Aaron Swartz’s legacy, and I believe it is time to ask what manner of society we shall be. I’ve been asking those sorts of questions, but I think it’s time we as a society did so. Will we be cruel, indifferent hoarders of information? Will we allow the promise of truly open innovation to collapse as we destroy the lives of geniuses like Aaron? Or will we rise to the challenge of rewriting the laws that govern information so that more of it is free?

Are we willing to end monopolies and find ways to benefit information generators at the same time?

Aaron’s intent and this entire story means to ask us this: Are we really willing to let archaic laws about types of information access take more lives?

The Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto asks us to reflect on these important questions.


My only hope is that we can heed this manifesto, and what it means for us all. I challenge you, embrace the Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto. Download it here. Or here.

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Aaron Swartz: Persecuted Genius

Aaron Swartz: Persecuted Genius

Aaron Swartz: Persecuted Genius

 
I didn’t write yesterday. I don’t know why. I just didn’t. I don’t read the theses ahead of time, instead I take them one day at a time usually. Today I’m playing catch up again, and given their new context, these theses have taken on a whole meaning. So, forgive me, but I think this is relevant.
 
Just look at Number 11: People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
 
Allegedly, Aaron Swartz was arrested in 2011 for allegedly stealing over 4 million online documents from MIT and academic publishing repository JSTOR. Where does one even begin?
 
Aaron co-founded Reddit, created RSS and was deeply involved in opposition to attempts to SOPA and PIPA, the internet regulation and surveillance bills. He founded demandprogress.org to combat internet censorship, and was a visionary who I would have loved tow work with. Not only that, he was funny.
 

Aaron Swartz: Ally

 

I dunno

 

Just…when you see someone like Aaron, and you believe the same things, hold the very same ideas, and proceed in the same direction…

 

It’s hard to lose someone like that…someone so in step with what you’re doing.
 

It’s like losing an iteration of your own philosophy, like the sudden extinguishing of something true.

 
It’s funny that CNN has taken liberally to prescribing Swartz as a depressive. Performing diligent propaganda duties that undermine the role that the DOJ”s Indictment obviously played. No one can say everything that can or should be said, especially in times of great peril and injustice. But it is my simple attempt to light a little vigil to the truth, and to keep his memory alive.

 

We’re living in an age where the bureaucrats have decided that innovation, sharing and free information are one of the greatest threats to the security of the world. In a world where the academy has locked itself in an echo chamber, helplessly enslaved to information gatekeeping, Aaron was a visionary. Allegedly.

 
Aaron was genius. Is genius. His work testified to the new possibilities of information liberation. While the entrepreneurs call for disruptive startups, geniuses like Aaron Swartz are systematically reviled and ground into a legal system that is soul-crushing, isolating, and full of arbitrary exercises of power. What could possibly be more disruptive than actual disruptions? Startup gurus are often mistaken by the way they play the numbers, or attract a following. When your tech causes shifts in politics, then you’ve earned the moniker, disruptive.
 
My only hope is that MIT, JSTOR and the entire academic community tell the DOJ where to stick it. Because without a strong response from academics, systematic abuses of copyright law will lead to witch hunts against information activists like Aaron.
 
12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

Aaron Swartz: Activist

 
The Defense’s expert witness speaks, and already citizens are outpacing the media in handling the information. There are no secrets.
 
Aaron allegedly acted on number 12 and was able to produce data liberation that encourages education, and fostering knowledge. That’s disruptive, it’s innovative, and it was persecuted.
 
The DOJ Is squarely responsible for a technological witch-hunt. Our networks know it, but whether they act will be the question.
 
Everything about information now depends more explicitly on its politics. Will the Academy, students, teachers and independent news media, citizens and everybody draw their line in the sand and call for enough?
 
One can only hope.
 
In Aaron’s Own Words:
 

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.
 
We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.
 
With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

 
In memoriam Aaron Swartz, the funny genius, the persecuted visionary, sending karma your way.

Update: The Family Has Spoken: “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” the statement read. “Decisions made by officials in the U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”
 
Update: Links
DOJ Persecuted Internet Activist Aaron Swartz Please watch the video at the end of this.
 
The Movement to Free American Case Law
 
The Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom Federal copyright persecution leads RSS co-author and anti-SOPA activist Aaron Swartz to kill himself