Of Aaron Swartz, Open Access And #PDF Tributes

Deepa Kurup | The Hindu | January 15, 2013

So in a fitting tribute on Monday, academics across the world paid tribute to this legendary hacker and advocate of a free and equal Internet by putting up PDFs of their copyrighted works online. On the micro-blogging site Twitter, the hashtag #PDFTribute trended all day, triggering a progressive and open debate on copyright, academic work and access.

All the more relevant in the context of a developing country like India, many complained that outside university networks, it was impossible to access academic works. Though few Indian professors were seen participating, the Indian academic journal, Economic and Political Weekly, showed its solidarity to the free and open access movement by releasing at least eight academic papers that were otherwise behind its pay wall. Most of what was released was papers topical or relevant on subjects such as cash transfers, and on Internet freedom and open access....

Swartz believed deeply that technology must facilitate access to information and knowledge. His Open Library project, an open source endeavour that attempts to catalogue all the books in the world, was one of his pet projects that is part of Internet Archive, which has till date put up over three billion books online.

Anand Chitipothu, who works for Internet Archive and manages the Open Library project, says he was “shocked and pained” to hear of Swartz’s suicide. Just a week ago, he said, he had interacted with him at a web conference where the young hacker spoke of “short-term and long-term goals for himself and the project” and had announced that he was about to start a new project called WatchDog.net, an open data platform. His work and convictions, Mr. Chitipothu said, is “extremely relevant” as is his mission to “keep information open and available”.