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<nettime> some more nuanced thoughts on SWARTZ
David Golumbia on Sun, 24 Jul 2011 06:02:22 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> some more nuanced thoughts on SWARTZ

having had time to read some of the earlier documents more closely, and to
read further at http://blog.demandprogress.org/and http://www.aaronsw.com/,
i feel the situation deserves comments more nuanced than the ones i made

i do not think Swartz was deliberately trying to steal. i DO think that
"stealing" covers copying as well as property that can't be copied, but
that's a story for another day. (and I will note that the article linked in
prior emails was not about Swartz).

i do believe Swartz was doing what he did for reasons of scholarly research.
i have read some of his other research and not only respect it but consider
it highly valuable. the specific question he seemed to be asking--the
funding sources for science articles in JSTOR--is a vital and important

but the questions remain. Did Swartz ask JSTOR for permission? It seems
likely to me that JSTOR would have been willing (and probably still would be
willing) to work with a researcher to provide either data or access to data
to ask the sort of questions he is interested in. I can' find any reference
to making a standard request to JSTOR of this sort.

What it appears is that Swartz simply started downloading, knowing he was
violating the terms of use of JSTOR and MIT. He decided. On his own. That
the minimal policies protecting intellectual property within the university
system are not worth respecting, and perhaps not even worth consulting

That does irk me. Because the only principle Swartz can be said to be
standing up for, other than libertarian/Ayn Rand principles of "my power,
i'll do it now, my way, or burn it down" is that an academic deserves access
to any and all information. Such principles require institutions of even a
minimal sort to maintain them. I've yet to hear anyone or read anywhere of a
mass protest or outrage about JSTOR.

If Swartz's point is that JSTOR (and by extension all academics and
libraries) have no right to the products of their intellectual labor, and
that our rights are so highfalutin that a single individual is within his
own rights to abrogate JSTOR's entirely, then we really do have a massive
difference of opinion.

when "demanding progress' means that libraries and academics have no rights
over their works at all, and agents like JSTOR are being tagged with words
like "criminal" the world has turned upside down.

there are huge properties in intellectual property law. the ability of
single researchers to publish and distribute their works is not one of the
serious ones. there is very little research data not made available widely
within the relevant research community. most colleges and universities and
most public libraries allow access, including downloading for private use.
institutions like libraries and JSTOR are necessary to provide the minimal
infrastructure necessary to do the research and teaching in the first place.
most academics distribute their own research free of charge. if we are the
enemy, who are your friends? and which sides is the war between?

i'd be a lot more sympathetic if there was a track record of trying to do
this research officially and being turned down before hacking in to it.
because without it, this sounds like "doing research through regular
institutional methods" is the target of attack. maybe it is--but if so, why
do you expect me to sign on?

David Golumbia
dgolumbia {AT} gmail.com

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