Oh Wait: MIT Already Made All Its Research Open; So Why Was It So Against Aaron Swartz?

from the horrifying dept

We recently picked up on a suggestion by Farhad Manjoo over at Slate that MIT should make all of its research open access as an apology for assisting in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz. Some people in our comments, reacting angrily against this idea, noted that faculty could not be forced to make their works open access by an administration. Well, it turns out that it's already happening. Daniel Hawkins pointed out that MIT faculty unanimously agreed that all its faculty members would release their works under an open access policy... back in 2009.
The Faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nonexclusive permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles for the purpose of open dissemination. In legal terms, each Faculty member grants to MIT a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit, and to authorize others to do the same. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy.
This is a good policy, and one you would hope that other universities would adopt as well.

But, in light of the situation with Aaron Swartz, it just makes it that much more baffling why MIT helped push the case forward and, despite repeated requests to do so, failed to join JSTOR in asking the feds to drop the case. Here is MIT, a school that has widely embraced both the hacker culture and the widespread and free dissemination of academic research, and it helped push forward and supported a massively over-aggressive campaign by the Justice Department against Aaron for embracing the same principles the school itself publicly supports. It's incredible, baffling... and disappointing.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2013 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Most? Is that a fact or a guess? There are hundreds of years of documents on JSTOR. Anything older than what, 1923? is public domain, so, there's a possibility that there are more documents on JSTOR that are public domain than aren't. The JSTOR archive that was released on the torrent networks 2 years ago when Aaron was arrested was stuff from the 1600's. Thats 300 years before documents fall back into copyright from the public domain. 300 years of documents that could easily add up to being more than the last 90. (its also plausible that there are more in the last 90 than the previous 300. I'm just illustrating that its not a slam dunk conclusion that the majority is one or the other)

    Public domain changes the analysis completely. Who would they have been protecting? The public from the public? If 100% of the documents were public domain, well, then why would they need to fight to prevent someone from accessing them? In that case, they most likely would not have. They might not really have had much of a business model if they did, as I don't think universities would be paying $50k a year for access to public domain documents. I would wager that a cloud service could host those for couple hundred dollars a month. If it was public domain, they never would have been trying to limit him as much, if at all. I mean, why would they need to? To "protect" one of the most robust networks in the world? Yeah, right. Wake me when MIT has a major network outage because EVERYONE on campus is downloading something. I doubt that would even bring it to its knees.

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