Pirates versus Zombies

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Academy, News, Politics

Pirates are way cooler than ninjas (as the meme goes), but are they greater than zombies?

In the pirate corner is Aaron Swartz, a blogger, programmer and activist, currently the director of the political lobby group Demand Progress, (http://blog.demandprogress.org/). Swartz, described as a “respected Harvard researcher” and “Internet folk hero” by the New York times, was charged with computer fraud last week in Boston. He is accused of unlawfully downloading millions of documents from JSTOR (who represent our zombies), one of the largest online databases housing articles from hundreds of academic publishers.

At 24 years of age Swartz is a controversial figure, he has worked with some of the most interesting datamancers and legal luminaries of the information age, including Tim Berners-Lee at MIT, and Lawrence Lessig and the Creative Commons Foundation and has worked on the software architecture of the Open Library project at the Internet Archive. He help co-author the RSS 1.0 standard at age 14, and was involved with Reddit.com a social news site that enables user ‘upvote’ and ‘downvote’ content. Swartz provided programming for the site when his start up merged with the site’s was ‘founders’ Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, in 2006, and he was fired soon after Condé Nast Publications, owner of Wired, acquired Reddit in 2006.

This is a long term battle for Swarz, he wrote the ‘Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto’ in 2008, and is accused of downloading the JSTOR files in 2009.

News of Swartz’s indictment has recruited new pirates to the battle, most notably self-described ‘scientist hobbyist’, Greg Maxwell who published a torrent file earlier this week on The Pirate Bay. Maxwell has seeded a massive collection of academic publications (more than 30 gigabytes of data) from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society published before 1923 ( and therefore technically in the public domain) with a manifesto of his own that is worth a read.

The zombies definitely have the legal, if the not the ethical high ground, but the pirates have opened up with a massive broadside.

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