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<nettime> Aaron Swartz: Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

Let us honour Aaron by continuing his work, collectively.

Aaron Swartz: Guerilla 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

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

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