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Re: <nettime> No JSTOR downloads or bicycle-helmet-masks for you
Glendon Jones on Sat, 23 Jul 2011 21:58:44 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> No JSTOR downloads or bicycle-helmet-masks for you


Pretty much every comment that you can find on Aaron Swartz?s arrest, both
those that praise him for "sticking it to the man" and those that think he a
criminal, is based on the assumption that he intended to illegally
redistribute these articles, that he was trying to ?liberate? information.
 Few have acknowledged the possibility that he was doing actual research
that simply pushed JSTOR past its technical limits (so yes, he clearly
violated section 2.2 f of the ToS) and that he had no intention of sharing
the content he downloaded.  After a half hour of very basic web research I
believe that this is the case for two main reasons.

1.   This reference to a previous project of Mr. Swartz?s come from the blog
of Demand Prgress, an online activist group founded and formerly directed by
him.  ?In conjunction with Shireen Barday, he downloaded and analyzed
441,170 law review articles to determine the source of their funding; the
results were published in the Stanford Law Review.?  So it seems very
possible that the articles or JSTOR itself were actually the subject of a
research project, one that would probably have involved some kind of
automated methods of analysis. http://demandprogress.org/aaron

2.  Assuming he was going to release this content, how exactly would he have
made these articles publicly available? This would not be like putting a
pirated movie on the Pirate Bay and I really doubt that Wikileaks would want
it.  The reason people go to JSTOR to find articles is partly because the
full text is available there, but mostly because they are searchable in
several ways, sortable by discipline, filterable by type, etc.  Without an
enormous amount of metadata and a specialized search engine to use it,
finding anything in a heap of several million articles is way beyond a
needle in a haystack.  A simple keyword search would be fairly easy to
implement and of some use but no replacement for the work of the many
catalogers and software engineers that really make JSTOR the valuable
resource that it is. The point is, the logistics of making this trove of
information useful and available are huge.  Such a huge mess of data would
be very difficult to use as a compressed and scattered file on a torrent and
how else could this volume of copyrighted material really be put out there
for public consumption?

Obviously Aaron Swartz is quite a bit more visionary in these matters than
I, and perhaps he had an ingenious plan for thwarting the IP watchdogs or is
a member of a cabal of nefarious programmers and librarians, striving to
create the shadow JSTOR.  I find it easier to accept that he simply needed
more data faster than JSTOR would give it.  He had legitimate access to the
information, just not that much of it in that short a time. That he
approached this problem in a prankish and ultimately unproductive manner is
true but not the issue that the Feds are after him for.  JSTOR has forgiven
the violation of the terms of service and MIT has settled the trespassing
and damage claims and neither is pressing any charges. The criminal charges
appear to stem from his assumed intentions for the material, an assumption
that even his supporters seem willing to go along with.  Based on his past
work I think that it?s a questionable one.

Anyway that?s my perspective, also, I suppose, from the library world.

PS.  After writing the above,  I found this:
http://gigaom.com/2011/07/21/pirate-bay-jstor/  While I agree with what Greg
Maxwell did and says about it,  it still doesn?t tell us anything about
Aaron Swartz?s intentions.


On Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 1:20 PM, Philip Smith <phlipsmith {AT} gmail.com> wrote:

> Of all the subscription databases out there JSTOR is among the least
> proprietary and dick-ish. The cost to libraries is reasonable, the content
> mostly historical (main subjects: literary criticism, history, economics,
> business, philology; it's mostly a humanities collection). I doubt much of
 <...>


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