‘Guerilla Activist’ Releases 18,000 Scientific Papers – MIT Technology Review

“Yesterday, in response to this week’s indictment of a 24-year-old Harvard researcher and Internet activist [Aaron Swartz] for allegedly hacking into MIT’s network and collecting nearly five million scholarly articles, a second hacker released more than 18,592 (32 gigabytes) of subscription-only research obtained from the same service. The second man identified himself as Greg Maxwell, a 31-year-old “technologist, recreational mathematician, and scientific hobbyist” from northern Virginia….Maxwell says he released the papers for similar reasons. He says the papers come from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and were published before 1923, which means they’re in the public domain (his claim has not been independently verified). “This knowledge belongs to the public,” he argues. For the sake of scientific progress, Maxwell says, such databases shouldn’t keep research under lock and key at all, let alone beyond their copyright expiration, as is the current practice. “Progress comes from making connections between others’ discoveries, from extending them, and then from telling people,” he says….”  

Royal Society frees up journal archive

“The archive [of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society] was digitized in 1999 by JSTOR, the US-based archive for academic journals, for a sum in the ‘high five figures in US dollars’. Royal Society commercial director Stuart Taylor says they have been thinking about making part of the archive free for some time. As digitization of print works gets easier and cheaper, “we do not feel it is justifiable to continue charging for access [to out-of-copyright material]”, Taylor said. The Royal Society’s pay-per-view income for the entire archive (including papers after 1941) amounts to less than 0.5% of their total publishing revenues.

In July, programmer Greg Maxwell uploaded nearly 19,000 articles from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, all of them published before 1923, onto the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay (in stated support for computer coder Aaron Swartz, who is still facing a federal indictment for downloading over 4 million articles from JSTOR). The Royal Society’s release today means that the articles Maxwell uploaded are all now free to view. Maxwell’s action did not affect the Society’s decision, says Taylor….”