This is a post put together based on great contributions on the blogs of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (Adi Kamdar & Maira Sutton), Creative Commons (Timothy Vollmer) and the Open Access Button project (David Carroll).
Join the global Open Access movement!
In July the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wrote about the predicament that Colombian student Diego Gomez found himself in after he shared a research article online. Gomez is a graduate student in conservation and wildlife management at a small university. He has generally poor access to many of the resources and databases that would help him conduct his research. Paltry access to useful materials combined with a natural culture of sharing amongst researchers prompted Gomez to share a paper on Scribd so that he and others could access it for their work. The practice of learning and sharing under less-than-ideal circumstances could land Diego in prison.
Facing 4-8 years in prison for sharing an article
The EFF reports that upon learning of this unauthorized sharing, the author of the research article filed criminal complaint against Gomez. The charges lodged against Diego could put him in prison for 4-8 years. The trial has started, and the court will need to take into account several factors: including whether there was any malicious intent to the action, and whether there was any actual harm against the economic rights of the author.
Academics and students send and post articles online like this every day—it is simply the norm in scholarly communication. And yet inflexible digital policies, paired with senseless and outdated practices, have led to such extreme cases like Diego’s. People who experience massive access barriers to existing research—most often hefty paywalls—often have no choice but to find and share relevant papers through colleagues in their network. The Internet has certainly enabled this kind of information sharing at an unprecedented speed and scale, but we are still far from reaching its full capacity.
If open access were the default for scholarly communication, cases like Diego’s would become obsolete.
Let’s stand together to support Diego Gomez and promote Open Access worldwide.
Help Diego Gomez and join academics and users in fighting outdated laws and practices that keep valuable research locked up for no good reason. If open access were the default for scholarly communication, cases like Diego’s would become obsolete. Academic research would be free to access and available under an open license that would legally enable the kind of sharing that is so crucial for enabling scientific progress.
We at Open Knowledge have joined as signees of the petition in support of Diego alongside prominent organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, Open Access Button, Internet Archive, Public Knowledge, and the Right to Research Coalition. Sign your support for Diego to express your support for open access as the default for scientific and scholarly publishing, so researchers like Diego don’t risk severe penalties for helping colleagues access the research they need:
“Scientific and scholarly progress relies upon the exchange of ideas and research. We all benefit when research is shared widely, freely, and openly. I support an Open Access system for academic publishing that makes research free for anyone to read and re-use; one that is inclusive of all and doesn’t force researchers like Diego Gomez to risk severe penalties for helping colleagues access the research they need.”