The sharing of knowledge is being criminalised

“Last month, the 29-year-old Colombian biologist Diego Gómez (shown above) was cleared of charges of violating copyright. Nothing remarkable in that, you might think. But the “crime” that Gómez was accused of was that in 2011 he uploaded another scientist’s 2006 thesis on amphibian taxonomy to the document-sharing network Scribd so that others could read it, since it was hard to find, and Gómez thought it deserved wider appreciation.


However, the author of the thesis did not appreciate the gesture, and sued for damages. The court case began in 2014. At stake was not just fines of up to $327,000, but a prison sentence of between four and eight years. Although the court has just acquitted Gómez, his troubles are not yet over, since the prosecutor has appealed against the judge’s decision. As a result, Gómez must still live with the threat of many years of prison and a ruinous fine hanging over him – all because he wanted to share knowledge with his fellow researchers, and with no attempt to derive any financial benefit from doing so.


Gómez is a victim of a new law that Colombia passed in 2012, which requires criminal sanctions when infringement takes place on a “commercial scale”, where that term is framed so loosely that it includes non-commercial infringement like sharing a thesis. The law was brought in as part of Colombia’s compliance with the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. International trade deals have become a standard way for the US copyright industry to force other countries to extend copyright and introduce harsh punishments against infringement, as Gómez discovered….”

Open data, [open] access: linking data sharing and article sharing in the Earth Sciences

“INTRODUCTION The norms of a research community influence practice, and norms of openness and sharing can be shaped to encourage researchers who share in one aspect of their research cycle to share in another. Different sets of mandates have evolved to require that research data be made public, but not necessarily articles resulting from that collected data. In this paper, I ask to what extent publications in the Earth Sciences are more likely to be open access (in all of its definitions) when researchers open their data through the Pangaea repository. METHODS Citations from Pangaea data sets were studied to determine the level of open access for each article. RESULTS This study finds that the proportion of gold open access articles linked to the repository increased 25% from 2010 to 2015 and 75% of articles were available from multiple open sources. DISCUSSION The context for increased preference for gold open access is considered and future work linking researchers’ decisions to open their work to the adoption of open access mandates is proposed.”