Remembering Aaron Swartz

The Pirate Party commemorates the memory of Aaron Swartz: hacker, activist, and Internet freedom fighter.

Today we commemorate the birth of Internet freedom fighter Aaron Swartz in Brooklyn, New York City on November 8th 1986. As co-founder of Reddit and contributor to the RSS1.0 web specification, he was immersed in computers, technology and internet culture from a young age. But It was his download of hundreds of thousands of academic journal entries in 2010 that became his greatest act of self sacrifice. For the crime of legally accessing journal articles through his JSTOR account granted by Harvard, he was punished with $1 million dollars in fines and a 35 year jail sentence that was never carried out after he died of suicide on January 11th 2013.[1][2] His fight for freedom of access to scientific knowledge is carried on by Alexandra Elbakyan, the founder of https://scihub.org/ [3]

In 2008, Aaron wrote:

“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. 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. 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?”[2]

“Access to scientific journals shouldn’t be restricted by affiliation with academic institutions or affordability”, said Dave Kennedy, Pirate Party spokesperson. “We advocate for the reform of increasingly restrictive copyright laws and an enshrinement of the spirit of open access into law, to ensure that Aaron’s death by suicide in 2013 is not forgotten.”

He continued, “The current model of academic publishing is inherently coercive and exploitative. In fields without a strong open-access movement, the publish-or-perish culture of academia means that many researchers have no real choice but to sign away the copyright on their research to for-profit academic publishing companies like Elsevier if they want any hope of keeping their career. The only ones who benefit from the status quo of academic publishing are the rent seeking publishers who profit off of researcher’s blood, sweat and tears. By keeping academic research behind pay walls, all we accomplish is that fewer people and organisations will be able to access and benefit from academic research. It’s simply disgraceful that research by Australian academics, much of which has been funded in whole or in part by our taxpayer dollars, might be locked behind a paywall where it can’t be used by the Australian public who paid for it.”

1: https://waldina.com/2020/11/08/happy-34th-birthday-aaron-swartz/
2: http://www.aaronsw.com/
3: See also https://sci-hub-links.com/sci-hub-mirrors/
4: https://archive.org/details/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto

One thought on “Remembering Aaron Swartz

  1. First of all, there is some sort of inertia that has set in in those academic circles which is completely contradictory to the ‘innovation’ that they’re supposed to stand for.

    The DJVU patent has expired twenty years ago yet they keep that PDF format around.

    Yes DJVU is around 3 times smaller than PDF.

    Same goes for a number of things including the fact that every equation is empirical and thus wrong, ie empirical methods are just experiments on nature. And each equation has a better variant, at least ten of them in fact if you use genetic programming and minimise Euclidean distance instead of standard deviation.

    It’s basically a question to all academics, will you embrace stochastics and heuristics with an open mind. Especially since genetic algos can solve any function. Neural Networks can describe any function. And Neural Network can give you the inverse in a second even if no classical closed form inverse exists.

    For any function.

    So the classical thinkers are sticking with their beliefs and the stochasticians are finding it easy to do thousand fold the amount of work in one go, refer protein folding problem.

    I’m with the stochasticians and heuristicians.

    Cheers.

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