23 Jul 2011

The ‘war against knowledge’? Protesting the academic archive paywall

Anyone following academic news of late may have heard about the current prosecution launched against Aaron Swartz for his downloading of nearly 5 million scholarly articles archived online with JSTOR. Swartz has been charged with computer intrusion, fraud and data theft for his actions—charges which have been branded excessive by many academics and copyright critics.

On Wednesday the plot thickened, with over 18,000 documents being pulled from the scientific journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society made available through Bittorrent on The Pirate Bay by Gregory Maxwell. Maxwell's actions made freely accessible documents that usually are charged at a rate of between $8 and $19 dollars for access. Maxwell claims his actions were in protest of Swartz’s charges, accompanying his upload with a manifesto stating his intent to “remove even on dollar of ill-gained income from a poisonous industry which act to supress scientific and historic understanding” regardless of the “personal cost” he might suffer.

While the ‘stealing is stealing’ argument is one side of the issue in relation to how exactly material was obtained, Swartz and Maxwell’s actions obviously spark interesting debate about free access to archived scholarly material. Swartz prominently supports the free flow of information and access online and in libraries in the open culture movement. As Dan Goodwin points out in an article for The Register, critics of the somewhat epic charges brought against Swartz argue that “many of the documents in JSTOR's collection are probably kept behind its paywall against the authors' will and that there are no valid copyright claims restricting their distribution”.

Should access to archived scholarship be free in the digital domain? How far does the "authors’ will" extend? Is prosectuing for downloading to this extent the same as being charged for checking out too many books at the library?

For more on Swartz and the charges as covered by the Demand Progress Blog, click here.

20 Jul 2011

How to archive tweets

As archives encounter more and more 'Born Digital' material, questions surrounding the storing of such material become increasingly important. Here are two articles on how to personally archive 'tweets' from twitter which currently only keeps a searchable archive of the last 3200 tweets at a time for each account and as these roll over, tweets are lost.

One article speculates on the uses of archiving tweets: "Not everyone will care to archive their tweets, but it can be a good idea if you want to keep a record of what you’ve said on Twitter. You might be running a business Twitter account and want to save your interactions with customers, or you might be using Twitter to write 140-character haikus that you eventually compile into a book."
How to archive your tweets -  http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/how-to-archive-your-tweets_b4707

Another article - http://news.idg.no/cw/art.cfm?id=9C7F0E3F-1A64-6A71-CE891C8591844C5A

19 Jul 2011

Online Watermark Archive

The Gravell Watermark Archive brings together over 50,000 watermarks from across America and Europe. The collection incorporates some 7,500 images collected by American-watermark expert Thomas L. Gravell, and Charles-Moise Briquet’s documentation of around 45,000 unpublished marks.

The online archive allows users to search a range of designs from mythical creatures to symbolic objects, intricately rendered by a process of attaching wire to a paper mould. Watermarks function to identify paper products related to particular makers or mills at specific times and places, and their inclusion in the online database can assist researchers to dating elusive manuscripts.

Click here for a full article on the archive by Erica Olson, and here for a link to the Gravell website.