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Release of 33GiB of Scientific Publications 242

Posted by timothy
from the summer-reading dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A Wikipedian, Greg Maxwell, has released 33GiB of scientific publications [note: torrent] from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in response to the arrest of Aaron Swartz for, effectively, downloading too many articles from JSTOR. The release consists of 18,592 scientific articles previously released at $8-$19 each and all published prior to 1923 and so public domain."
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Release of 33GiB of Scientific Publications

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  • Biased summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_raptor (652941) on Friday July 22, 2011 @07:08PM (#36853090)

    in response to the arrest of Aaron Swartz for, effectively, downloading too many articles from JSTOR

    No, that jackass got arrested for not only hacking MIT systems but physically breaking into equipment cabinets and messing with the hardware. He did this so that he could "effectively download too many articles from JSTOR", but that isn't what he got arrested for.

    I am all for civil disobedience when it is merited, but don't go crying when you get arrested and charged for that disobedience. Especially don't go trying to distort the reasons for your arrest to try and trick people into supporting you. There are so many causes I support where I wouldn't be caught seen with the "activists" pushing them because they do bullshit like this.

  • rational ignorance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by epine (68316) on Friday July 22, 2011 @07:32PM (#36853248)

    There's a connection here to rational ignorance. Rational ignorance is when you don't bother to understand and complain about the sugar quota, because it's only costing you a few dollars per year, whereas informing yourself and complaining about it would cost a lot more.

    From George Will on America, Politics, and Baseball [econtalk.org]

    It's the old point about the law that governs Washington is the law that concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. That's why we have sugar quotas; 308 million Americans eat sugar; a few thousand Americans grow sugar. We have sugar quotas. Why? Concentrated benefits, dispersed costs. Probably told this story on EconTalk before, but when I mentioned my distress over that fact to a Congressional staffer, he said--and I think I used hundreds of people grow sugar--he said: Well, it's more like a dozen. Even more depressing.

    From An Interview with Milton Friedman [econlib.org]

    Very little. Because it's not in the self-interest of the recipients to figure it out. What housewife is going to spend the time to save the extra moneyâ"maybe it's $5.00 or $10.00 a year she pays extra on sugar? It doesn't pay to try to figure out. What you're dealing with is rational ignorance. The rational part is what I want to emphasize. It's not ignorance that is avoidable because it's rational to be ignorant.

    The problem with this is that the sugar families note that hardly anyone is actively complaining and use this to argue "well, no one complains, so it's all right".

    In the courts, the flow of money is tangible, whereas pervasive resentment masked by rational ignorance is not. JSTOR will attempt to use this to their advantage. The only way to drive a wedge into this equation is to make both sides tangible.

  • by z-j-y (1056250) on Friday July 22, 2011 @07:35PM (#36853274)

    These old papers weren't published directly on internet in 1923. Someone had to transfer all of them from physical form to digital form, page by page. That's is a huge amount of work. Should we all be entitled to enjoy them free of charge? So who's paying the workers?

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Friday July 22, 2011 @07:35PM (#36853276) Homepage Journal

    it is somehow immoral to charge $8 to fetch an out-of-copyright article

    No its immoral to charge anything for any bit of information.

  • by leehwtsohg (618675) on Friday July 22, 2011 @07:52PM (#36853424)

    The benefit of giving someone the copyright is so that they can distribute copies to everybody (for a cost, of course, if they so desire), without fear that it might be copied. Whereas if someone has the only copy, but can not get a copyright, then they will prevent anyone from obtaining the document. So, even if something is in the public domain, you don't automatically get a right to have access to the work in order to copy it.

    Protection from access can by via lock (royal society), or can be attempted by trying to give you access only if you sign some agreement (JSTOR).
    I think also under some conditions, the original work is under public domain, but a derivative (say retranslation, or new photo, or some such) gets a new copyright.

    So, it isn't just important that the a work is in the public domain, but that many people actually have copies of it.

  • Re:Biased summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@gma ... minus herbivore> on Friday July 22, 2011 @07:55PM (#36853438) Homepage
    Yeah, that Rosa Parks, stop whining, bitch.

    You bring up an apt comparison, but it says the reverse of what you intended it to say. Rosa Parks practiced true civil disobedience; she broke a law out in the open, expecting to get arrested; that's a critical component of civil disobedience. She didn't do it secretly using a false name.
  • Librarians (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sunfly (1248694) on Friday July 22, 2011 @07:57PM (#36853446)
    I thought the reason for librarians is to make data easily found by users of the library. Then I go to do research and am astonished by the amount of effort required to find anything in digital format. I think my mom could come up with a better system... the librarians are failing.
  • Re:Biased summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Friday July 22, 2011 @08:08PM (#36853528)

    I am all for civil disobedience when it is merited, but don't go crying when you get arrested and charged for that disobedience. Especially don't go trying to distort the reasons for your arrest to try and trick people into supporting you.

    The problem with modern civil disobedience is that they don't hold you overnight and then let you go anymore, or even charge you with a crime for which the penalty is a $500 fine or 30 days in the county jail. They trump up some nonsense charges for which the penalty is 5-10 years or more in Federal PMITA Prison so that you have to spend enough on legal fees to bankrupt anyone who isn't a millionaire, because nobody sane is willing to go pro se against the prospect of that sort of excessive, life-ruining penalty. Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr. were arrested in 1955 for his ("illegal") bus boycotts, and then thrown in prison for the next 10 years. Somehow I doubt the 1963 "I have a dream" speech would have been quite as effective standing on a table in the prison cafeteria in front of a dozen inmates as it was in front of a quarter of a million people at the Lincoln Memorial.

    So today, prospective young men and women who feel that they have no real political representation are presented with a Sophie's choice. If they want to keep their freedom and have any continued hope of creating change through official channels or by shaping public opinion through open discussion, they have to forgo civil disobedience and are deprived of one of the most effective methods to bring about change in the face of a broken political system. (This is, obviously, by design from the perspective of the broken political system.) Or they can break the law as their predecessors did, but then have to rely on anonymity and whatever criminal defense a person can muster against outrageous penalties in order to retain the freedom to continue the fight and continue to violate unreasonable laws until they are repealed.

    Naturally someone will respond that this is a different fight and how dare I compare freedom of information to the civil rights movement etc. But that is just a political perspective -- history is written by the winners. Just because you don't agree with the politics of the accused (whether it be MLK or Julian Assange), that is no excuse to support the suppression of nonviolent political movements through criminal felony prosecutions.

  • by the gnat (153162) on Friday July 22, 2011 @08:20PM (#36853588)

    So basically, the answer is "it's complicated, and it's harder than you think."

    Speaking both as both a producer and consumer of scientific articles, there is actually a simple answer to this: granting agencies need to mandate open-access publishing as a condition of funding. This still costs money, obviously, but I think there's ample justification for the agencies taking this into account when calculating awards. There should be a limit, of course - publishing open-access in Nature costs something like $7000, compared to $1500 for most non-profit journals.

    Howard Hughes Medical Institute already started requiring this several years ago, and it effectively forced the publisher Elsevier to accept its terms. The NIH eventually went even further and mandated that all future NIH-funded articles needed to be uploaded to the PubMed Central database after six months. I don't think they even agreed to compensate the journal publishers; NIH-funded research makes up such a huge fraction of biomedical publications that they can do whatever they want. Since virtually everyone, including biotech and pharma companies, despise the scientific publishers, there is considerable political support for further moves in this direction.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 22, 2011 @08:34PM (#36853662)

    Of all the academic paper databases to pick on, why JSTOR? It's a non-profit institution that tries to make as much as possible available at low cost. Zero cost? No. They have bills to pay too. And while I understand the principle that if it is out of copyright, it would be ideal if it were freely available to everyone, scanning thousands of documents takes time (i.e. money if you are hiring people to do it) and hosting thousands of documents for access by thousands of people costs money too.

    If people want this to change, they have two legitimate options:
    1) scan the old, out-of-copyright papers in themselves and make them available for free in a volunteer, "open" effort (paying for the website hosting is left as an exercise for the reader)
    2) donate enough to JSTOR that they don't have to charge for access to public domain works anymore (if you have boatloads of money, make it a condition)

    Ripping off JSTOR's hard work scanning in documents isn't a solution even if we are talking about public domain materials. "Public domain" doesn't mean "free access" as in $$$, it means "free to copy", as in if you can get an original copy, copyright does not prohibit you from copying it and doing whatever you want with it. If you've gotten access illegally in the first place, that's a whole other equation. You might not be brought up on copyright charges, but you could get charged with a different crime.

  • Re:Biased summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Caerdwyn (829058) on Friday July 22, 2011 @08:36PM (#36853678) Journal
    Burglary, among other things.
  • Re:Biased summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcvos (645701) on Friday July 22, 2011 @08:40PM (#36853698)

    You've got a good point. I'd prefer civil disobedience to be done openly, but the more oppressive a regime gets, the more the need for secrecy grows.

    Members of the resistance during WW2 weren't open about sheltering Jews either. It wasn't just illegal; it would get them killed.

  • Re:Biased summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_raptor (652941) on Friday July 22, 2011 @08:58PM (#36853800)

    The problem with modern civil disobedience is that they don't hold you overnight and then let you go anymore, or even charge you with a crime for which the penalty is a $500 fine or 30 days in the county jail.

    When did THEY ever do that for real civil disobedience? Now days the worst you are likely to suffer from civil disobedience in the West is a few years in jail. Those fighting for causes such as civil rights for African-Americans or women's suffrage faced being beaten, tortured, and killed. Mandela was in prison for TWENTY-SEVEN years. The whole point of civil disobedience is to show the injustice in something by pointing the public at the disproportionate sentences handed out.

    Modern activists are generally a bunch of pussies that scream about the injustice of The System but don't actually want to suffer the losses that an actual fight requires. If a cause isn't worth spending a few years in jail, it isn't worth making a fuss out of at all. People like MLK Jr knew their cause was worth the back-lash.

  • Re:Biased summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_raptor (652941) on Friday July 22, 2011 @09:04PM (#36853820)

    No the more oppressive the regime the MORE resistance needs to be in the open. Oppressive regimes work by making people afraid, especially by making dissidents feel they are alone and isolated. When oppressive regimes fall from internal causes it is nearly always due to people making public stands. The current "Arab spring" is the perfect example of this. Those regimes are only falling because people are marching in the streets and willing to die to see the end of the current regimes.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday July 22, 2011 @09:16PM (#36853886)

    I love open access, and I have a couple of things published that way (just got invited to do another book chapter, which I'll squeeze in if at all possible), but the publication costs can really hit hard. The PLOS journals are $1350US on the cheap end (PLOS One - not sure why it's cheapest) to $2250US or $2900US for the others. It's hard to explain to a granting agency (or your supervisor, or a grant administrator) why you want to spend $3000 on a publication in a low impact factor journal instead of nothing on a pub in a well recognized journal.

    I think the solution to this problem is going to have to involve the libraries. A little support from them for reputable open journals (there are quite a few not so reputable ones) would go a long way.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday July 22, 2011 @09:36PM (#36853960)

    It's too bad you published AC. Mods - this needs to be a +5 Insightful/Informative.

    Public domain means you can take a copy of the original and do what you want with it. It doesn't mean you're entitled for someone to do a bunch of work to put it in a convenient format, and then spoon feed it to you.

    Yes, if the copies of the original are restricted unreasonably that's a problem. But THAT's the problem, not someone trying to recover their costs for providing a useful service. Particularly not a NON-PROFIT doing so.

  • Re:Biased summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Friday July 22, 2011 @09:59PM (#36854066) Homepage

    Open and anonymous need not be separate things. A person flagrantly violating the law and then disappearing before the goon squad can come haul them off to the organ harvester is effective. Same thing but calling out your name and address just makes people think you were suicidal anyway and gets your family killed as well.

  • Re:Biased summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Friday July 22, 2011 @10:00PM (#36854076)

    Now days the worst you are likely to suffer from civil disobedience in the West is a few years in jail.

    Since when is that a small thing to suffer?

    Mandela was in prison for TWENTY-SEVEN years.

    That's what I'm talking about. Mandela accomplished what he set out to, but it basically took him his whole life to do it. And what happens if the people with his level of dedication are executed rather than imprisoned? What happens if the change sought is time-sensitive, such that whoever wins the day today will capture enough power to keep the balance in their favor going forward?

    Civil disobedience doesn't work if you're the only one doing it. In that case the opposition merely has to come down on you hard enough to take you out of the running and deter anyone else from taking your place. It works when people take part on a mass scale. And if there are enough people willing to have an "example" made of them for the cause then great, but in many situations, even for very worthy causes, there are insufficiently many people willing to make that sacrifice. There are, in fact, things worth fighting for that aren't worth dying for.

    So anonymity and penalty avoidance allow the process to bootstrap. If people can show that they can break bad laws without being caught, more people will be emboldened to join them. Once enough people are doing it, some of them will do what you want -- step forward, put their heads on the chopping block and dare the oppressors to martyr them. And by that point, when most every citizen is guilty of the crime, no jury will convict.

    If a cause isn't worth spending a few years in jail, it isn't worth making a fuss out of at all.

    This is nonsense and is the main flaw in your argument. There are undeniably non-frivolous causes worth taking action over that aren't worth going to prison over.

  • by grcumb (781340) on Friday July 22, 2011 @10:14PM (#36854130) Homepage Journal

    These old papers weren't published directly on internet in 1923. Someone had to transfer all of them from physical form to digital form, page by page. That's is a huge amount of work. Should we all be entitled to enjoy them free of charge? So who's paying the workers?

    Emphatically yes, we should.

    I manage technical operations for the Pacific Legal Information Institute, and that's exactly the model we follow. The arguments for free access to critical learning materials is compelling. In our case (legal documents) it can be stated as simply as this: If ignorance of the law is no excuse, then access to the law must be completely free. If it's not, then we live in a society that is fundamentally unjust.

    I'll leave it as a (very simple) exercise for the reader to work out how this argument extends to higher learning.

    As to the question of who pays - We're donor-funded, because most of our constituent nations (20 in all) are very poor. In Australia, our sibling organisation (the Australasian Legal Information Institute) is largely funded by legal practices and other stakeholders. The same is true of the Canadian Legal Information Institute.

    Our collective manifesto is here [canlii.org].

  • by mariushm (1022195) on Friday July 22, 2011 @10:50PM (#36854280)

    Even if a person scanning the pages is paid 100$ an hour for his work, that person can probably scan 2 pages a minute, at a cost of about 0.8$ per page. JSTOR charges 10$+ per article, which may be one or several pages, and you basically get a token that expires in 14 days. You don't even get permanent access to that article.

    I'm sure nobody says they shouldn't try to recover their costs and cover the bandwidth and server costs but it probably costs less than 3$ to host a PDF file for 20-50 years. Charging tens of dollars for every access seems really greedy and wrong, especially since they didn't create the work, they didn't pay for it, they just host it and scanned it...

  • Re:Biased summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashqwerty (1099091) on Friday July 22, 2011 @10:56PM (#36854320)
    And her penalty was a $10 fine plus $4 in court costs*. Rosa Parks also spent one day in jail waiting to be bailed out. Her trial took place one week after she was charged.

    Today, it would costs tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees just to get the charges moved down to the real offense rather than some trumped-up felony. It would also cost tens of thousands of dollars to post bail. Anyone who can't post bail has to sit in jail awaiting trail which can potentially take years.

    *adjusted for inflation $14 in 1955 would be $120 in 2011.
  • by realxmp (518717) on Friday July 22, 2011 @10:57PM (#36854326)
    Transformative work such as translation or scanning on to new medium, whilst laudable should not gain a full new copyright but one in proportion to the effort. Translation is hard and often requires creative thought to translate cultural idioms, so maybe 20-30 years benefit to reflect that there was effort, making it worthwhile but reflecting that it not an original work. Format shifting on the other hand isn't amazingly hard nor creative, and can often be automated therefore the gain should be made from distribution and it shouldn't gain much if any additional protection (perhaps 5 years if it is from medium classified by a national archivist as endangered).
  • Re:Biased summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jjohnson (62583) on Friday July 22, 2011 @11:18PM (#36854398) Homepage

    Not when the "anonymous reader" uses the word "effectively" to describe Schwartz's actions. That means he knows that the facts of the case are different than what he's describing, and he's trying to substitute his own interpretation for what's already asserted.

  • Re:Biased summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rubycodez (864176) on Friday July 22, 2011 @11:50PM (#36854546)
    right, should have used a disposable computer with reverse tunnel for his access to transfer data, or to remotely update whatever login credentials to victim system. Computer systems can be so very small nowadays.....
  • Re:Biased summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iinlane (948356) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @03:30AM (#36855162)

    As a PhD student I have to release aritcles to these journals. I must release at least 3 articles to journals that are indexed by Thompson Web of Science, by doing that I must give away my copyright and sometimes the institute Is paying to them. My proffessor has to release articles to get funding and to keep his job. Others release articles in hopes to become a professor one day. Really, the system is sick - the goverment funding is divided in our university to institutes based on who publishes more to journals indexed by the databases.

    Yesterday I received an invitation of publishing to a journal special issue on my narrow field of research. The journal is free to everybody and I get to keep the copyright tho it does not give me any points torwards PhD. After reading the comment on that torrent I feel obligated to write an article to the journal even if I really don't have any time for it.

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