Aaron Swartz's 'Guerilla Open Access Manifesto'

DJ Pangburn | Motherboard | August 14, 2013

“Information is power,” reads the first sentence of the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, written by Aaron Swartz and other free information activists. It continues, “But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.” When Swartz unleashed the JSTOR database of research papers from the MIT campus, he probably couldn't have imagined the price he'd pay for his civil disobedience. However, he probably anticipated his moral crusade being characterized as federal crime.

Yesterday, the Secret Service files relating to their Aaron Swartz investigation were finally released, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Wired's Kevin Poulsen against the Department of Homeland Security. (The Secret Service is part of DHS.) Poulsen secured the files' release after the request was initially denied. The irony of keeping Swartz's information locked up like the academic papers he tried to liberate should not be lost on anyone. And, with only 104 pages out of 14,500 (that we know of) set to be released, we begin to see just how big of a threat Swartz was perceived to be to the establishment.

...in January of 2012, 1,400 scientists backed up the open access line of thought when they became signatories of The Cost of Knowledge project. Hundreds pledged to not publish in Reed Elsevier journals and otherwise engage with the publisher. As of today, there are 13,790 academics “taking a stand” against Elsevier's business practices.

..."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," wrote Swartz in his manifesto. "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."

Open Health News' Take: 

Much like the revolt by workers in the U.S. and Europe against immoral corporate behaviour back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, today we are seeing a much broader revolt by people around the world associated with the 'Open Movement'. Look at what's happening in the area of 'open access', 'open data', 'open source' software, 'open hardware', 'open standards', 'open government', 'open'...  Just as major corporations used the government and restrictive laws to punish union workers, today they are pursuing similar tactics against citizens in the U.S. and other countries around the world. It's interesting to see history continue to repeat itself. Read some of the news and blogs collected by Open Health News on the 'Open Movements' that are underway.  -  Peter Groen, Senior Editor, OHNews