Archaeology, Open Access, RIP Aaron Swartz

Doug Rocks-Macqueen | Doug's Archaeology | January 14, 2013

Last week Aaron Swartz killed himself because of the issue of Open Access. He was facing 35 years in prison for trying give people access to pre-1920s publications e.g. not under copyright. He also had a history of depression which probably played a significant aspect in his decision to kill himself. Obvious not being Aaron makes it hard to determine his exact motivation but his family and friends attribute it to the fact that he was facing years in prison. I was doing to write more about this but Eric at Digging Digitally has done a brilliant job. Check out his post.

And that’s the crux of the problem, and why Open Access is  one of the key ethical issues now faced by archaeology. Pay walls and intellectual property barriers carry real, and clearly very oppressive, legal force. I doubt, the SAA, the Archaeological Institute for America (AIA), or the American Anthropological Association (AAA) would want to press for felony charges or long prison terms if someone illegally downloaded a journal article from one of their servers. Nevertheless, Swartz’s case demonstrates that such barriers clearly carry dire legal implications...