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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus squirrel's Avatar
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    Aaron Swartz: Persecution or Just a Tragic Naivete?

    Probably most of you know of the suicide of Aaron Swartz, an IT genius and activist. As title, do you consider his death to be the result of the oppression by financial and political powers which control the flow of knowledge, or of just his own stupidity? Knowledge, of which innovation being lead mainly by academic researches, should be allowed to flow freely by whatever means necessary (such a politically correct statement, who dare to publicly speak against it?). This main issue here, however, is that he hacked into MIT's network to release the papers which are under paid subscription, which brought him under criminal investigation, probably delivered solid evidence against him.

    I dont like those publishers who impose unfair terms against us. Some years ago while I was still in HKUST, its library issued a notice regarding allegation still some students amongst us apply some techniques like machine controlled downloading streaming subscribed papers from a publisher, who subsequently threatened to forbid access of UST users. Can you fuxking believe that? We paid tuition fee, and the Chinese government funded it with taxpayers' money. And UST library blamed us for "excessively" downloading paid materials?!

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    This story is new to me, can someone give me a break down?
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  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus mickygor's Avatar
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    He downloaded a collection of scientific articles in an educational establishment, with the objective of releasing them for free to the public as he believed that people shouldn't have to pay for it. The government arrested him before he released them (he had legal access to the documents, it should be pointed out, he didn't hack into the system, he just made clear what his intentions were because he was an idealist), and did their classic "the only option is a plea bargain because we're gonna post bail at like $56973571035130" move). Schwartz was a mentally unstable person and could not cope with the stress, despite the fact that an objective jury would have found him not guilty, and topped himself.

    The answer is, it's both. He was being persecuted for a crime he hadn't yet committed, but he still had the intention to pirate the goods and wholesale distribute them. Regardless of his motive, people worked damn hard to discover the information held in those documents, and they deserve the right to compensation for that effort.
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    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    The NYTimes had a series of articles about him back in January that pointed out that the FBI was out for his blood for using personal funds to publicly release court documents (which are usually behind a paywall). So, when he was found out sticking a laptop into an MIT locker for the purpose of siphoning scholarly documents and releasing them for free, they threw the book at him - far and above how MIT itself wanted to handle the situation.

    He committed suicide because he was something of a savant and a hot-house flower. But as is always the case, the government doesn't much care what you do unless you fuck with their money flow. Do that and they will find you and hurt you.
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  5. #5
    Moderator QuantaCat's Avatar
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    I am opposed to everything related to him because it only became a thing after he died. talk about getting on the hipster bandwagon.
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  6. #6
    Lesser Hivemind Node Nullkigan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mickygor View Post
    Regardless of his motive, people worked damn hard to discover the information held in those documents, and they deserve the right to compensation for that effort.
    Sad to say, but academia does not work that way. Especially not academic publishing. Some of those people will have PAID for their work to be published. Others will have paid to read the surrounding literature before publishing their own works. None will have been paid for their efforts (that's what grants and copyrights are for, right?!) and if you don't publish your work is irrelevant, unsubstantiated and you get the chop. Unless you live in Germany, where publishing work is actually rare for some reason.. The only people compensated are the publishing houses. Who, to be fair, do need to hire editors, copyists and managers as well as distribute and maintain the content.

    Scientists publish partly because they Have To and partly because it's the Right Thing to Do. The metrics obviously differ by individual and field.
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  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nullkigan View Post
    Sad to say, but academia does not work that way. Especially not academic publishing. Some of those people will have PAID for their work to be published. Others will have paid to read the surrounding literature before publishing their own works. None will have been paid for their efforts (that's what grants and copyrights are for, right?!) and if you don't publish your work is irrelevant, unsubstantiated and you get the chop. Unless you live in Germany, where publishing work is actually rare for some reason.. The only people compensated are the publishing houses. Who, to be fair, do need to hire editors, copyists and managers as well as distribute and maintain the content.

    Scientists publish partly because they Have To and partly because it's the Right Thing to Do. The metrics obviously differ by individual and field.
    And of course putting educational and academic materials behind a paywall just affects poor students more than anybody else (and makes it that much more difficult for people to get an education in the first place). We already have the most expensive tertiary educational system in human history, despite these institutions supposedly being non-profit, and yet there's always more to pay...
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    Im surprised this didnt happen already in an age where you can get all media free from a torrent. Anyway down with paywalls and big prices I say.

  9. #9
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus squirrel's Avatar
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    As I know, the publisher which was the most concerned in this case is JSTOR. JSTOR is a academic journal articles archiving service, archiving selected journals (the list is expanding to cover as many as possible) from their very first issue to the latest, only that to avoid competition against original publishers, JSTOR intentionally maintains a time gap that latest few years of issues aren't put on web, so that JSTOR will not serve as substitute of original publishers' distribution channels (unless, maybe if original publishers want to).

    Till the day when my access to JSTOR was terminated with my graduation from my college, JSTOR subscription was only open to institutes. I dont have JSTOR's subscription rates but my guess is, it won't be affordable to most individuals even if it is open to individuals now. However, you have to appreciate that JSTOR is maintaining a very expensive operation in all aspects. First thing first, its highly optimized scanning graphic algorithm is superb. I am not saying that the others are sub-standard, I am just saying that JSTOR is just too outstanding. You know what I am saying if you compare scanned images from services like ScienceDirect to JSTOR. (Of course, there are some with crappy scanning quality, like Pro-Quest.) Yes, JSTOR is collecting a high fee, but it justifies the payment.

    Here is the JSTOR's PR statement over the sad event.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lambchops's Avatar
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    I've not heard about this specific case but from the brief description I've heard it seems to me like he was (sadly) putting all his efforts into the wrong place.

    There's already a trend towards (eventual) open access happening. It's pretty glacially paced (the publishers don't like it, unsurprising due to the profit per effort ratio the whole industry has for them right now, but I think they're slowly beginning to accept and hey as long as they get money for the important work they do actually do, such as editing, building a trusted journal, facilitating peer review etc,) but it is happening.

    The US is moving towards all government funded work (NIH, etc) being published open access after one years grace period for the publishers to get their cut.

    The UK, in what is a surprisingly progressive move for the Tories and a rare moment of me having a modicum of respect for them, has gone one better and from April is requiring that all work funded by UK bodies is published open access with the publishers getting their cut from a block grant given to universities for that purpose (hopefully this grant is sufficient, I'd imagine the publishers are ultimately going to lose out a bit here as some compromise has to be made, but as I've mentioned above they've been working to long on a business model that is so stacked in their favour it's more than time for them to do so). The UK is also attempted to encourage the EU to do the same but I think there has been limited success so far.

    Also I realise that I've been slagging off the publishers perhaps a bit much - I know for example that the American Chemical Society journals allow the author a personal link to their paper which they can share up to 50 times free of charge (and realistically, that's a pretty substantial number of times for most papers), however it's a feature that's not particularly well advertised and overly convoluted to find, or so I've heard.

    Anyway getting sidetracked here, but my main point was that he sounds to have been putting his efforts in the wrong place. There's already a trend to open access and he should have been writing to his representative in government trying to convince them to favour open access and so on. Yes progress is slow, yes his voice would have been tiny but it's one of many and some of them are in high places. He'd make more of a difference by campaigning through top down change in open access policies than releasing a bunch of papers into the wild.

    Tragic story. He should never have been put under that amount of pressure. Ridiculous.

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