Home » Academic libraries » Aaron Swartz Was Right – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Aaron Swartz Was Right – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Aaron Swartz Was Right – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

February 25, 2013

Aaron Swartz Was Right

Aaron Swartz Was Right 1

Katherine Streeter for The Chronicle Review

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The suicide of the Internet wunderkind Aaron Swartz has given rise to a great deal of discussion, much of it centered on whether the penalty sought against him by the prosecutor was proportional to his “crime.”

The consensus so far has been that Swartz did something wrong by accessing and releasing millions of academic papers from the JSTOR archive. But perhaps it is time to ask whether Swartz did in fact act wrongly. We might entertain the possibility that Swartz’s act of civil disobedience was an attempt to help rectify a harm that began long ago. Perhaps he was not only justified in his actions but morally impelled to act as he did. Moreover, we too might be morally impelled to take action.

To put it bluntly, the current state of academic publishing is the result of a series of strong-arm tactics enabling publishers to pry copyrights from authors, and then charge exorbitant fees to university libraries for access to that work. The publishers have inverted their role as disseminators of knowledge and become bottlers of knowledge, releasing it exclusively to the highest bidders. Swartz simply decided it was time to take action.

He laid the philosophical groundwork back in 2008, in an essay entitled “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.”

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