The Battle For Open-Access Information

Posted: July 6, 2015 in Tech
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A Melbourne-based PhD candidate’s online open-access publishing forum is a boon for those wishing to access texts and transcripts free. But at what cost to the authors of some of these works?

You don’t have to look far for information accessible only to the wealthy. Court documents are cynically priced to be affordable only to institutions, namely the legal firms and media organizations that daily require them. One can sit freely in court and watch proceedings, but to acquire the official record can cost thousands of dollars. A few years ago, my research required a transcript of a murder trial. It cost almost $3500, for which I had to seek a loan. Its price was a magnitude greater than the administrative labor involved in its release, and requests for a justification of the cost were ignored. I have heard more than once of a practice of defence lawyers – who receive these documents at no cost – “leaving transcripts on photocopiers”, a euphemism for making them secretly available to the prosecution.

But if there’s a ground zero for the open-access movement, it is scholarly archives. In 2008, a few years before his JSTOR operation, Swartz posted what he called his “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto”. It was a call to arms. It read, in part: “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 digitised and locked up by a handful of private corporations … 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.”

Full Story @ [thesaturdaypaper]

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