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[liberationtech] Tragic News: Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Gabe Gossett Gabe.Gossett at
Sat Jan 12 14:18:23 PST 2013

While I sympathize with the open access spirit of this thread, and have no intention to detract from the eulogizing of Aaron Swartz, I think that in all fairness a few things should be pointed out.

JSTOR is not a journal publisher. This is an important distinction since it means that JSTOR's terms are, at least in part, influenced by the journal publishers. It also means that it will not always be clear whether or not an article you publish will end up in JSTOR unless you make sure that you are publishing in a fully open access (OA) journal (which is the route I would recommend for anyone concerned with information equity). A directory of OA journals can be found here

Also, as a librarian, I have found JSTOR to be one of the least problematic of the academic content providers. This is probably due to the fact that they are non-profit, distribute little in the way of current content (where the profit margins are higher), allow for perpetual access to back runs that are bought, and was established as a way to expand access to journal content in academia. If there was an effective business model to allow for total open access I would not be surprised if JSTOR would be one of the content aggregators most open to such a model.

The real bad guys in the academic publishing world are for-profits like Elsevier, which was the target of a recent boycott:


On Jan 12, 2013, at 10:53 AM, "Julian Oliver" <julian at<mailto:julian at>> wrote:

..on Sat, Jan 12, 2013 at 01:03:52PM -0500, Shava Nerad wrote:

This is JSTOR going 'freeware' rather than Free Software. In the programming
domain it's comparable to source code that is technically open for reading yet
disallows modification or redistribution. Aaron would've been just as pissed
about this.

On their site they say 'A New Chapter Begins'. There's the irony.

We should all stop supporting knowledge mafia like JSTOR by discouraging our
peers to publish there. It's bad enough that publicly funded universities push
their knowledge output to a private business interest.

A great way to channel any despair from Aaron's death is to encourage peers to
publish openly.



On Jan 12, 2013 3:36 AM, "Yosem Companys" <companys at<mailto:companys at>> wrote:

This is a tragic loss and a terrible blow to the liberationtech community.


Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Web Update

By Anne Cai

Computer activist Aaron H. Swartz committed suicide in New York City
yesterday, Jan. 11, according to his uncle, Michael Wolf, in a comment
to The Tech. Swartz was 26.

“The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is,
regrettably, true,” confirmed Swartz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of
Kecker and Van Nest, in an email to The Tech.

Swartz was indicted in July 2011 by a federal grand jury for allegedly
mass downloading documents from the JSTOR online journal archive with
the intent to distribute them. He subsequently moved to Brooklyn, New
York, where he then worked for Avaaz Foundation, a nonprofit “global
web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making
everywhere.” Swartz appeared in court on Sept. 24, 2012 and pleaded
not guilty.

The accomplished Swartz co-authored the now widely-used RSS 1.0
specification at age 14, was one of the three co-owners of the popular
social news site Reddit, and completed a fellowship at Harvard’s
Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption. In 2010, he founded<>, a “campaign against the Internet censorship bills
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Julian Oliver
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