JSTOR Opens Access to Its Early Journal Content (Thanks, Aaron Swartz)

A win for open access: JSTOR, an online database of academic journals, announced this morning that it was making all its early journal content freely available. This includes all JSTOR articles published prior to 1923 in the U.S. and prior to 1870 elsewhere in the world. JSTOR's database includes articles from all academic disciples, and what's been made freely available today represents about 6% of the organization's content.

"We encourage broad use of the Early Journal Content, including the ability to reuse it for non-commercial purposes," says JSTOR in its announcement. "We ask that you acknowledge JSTOR as the source of the content and provide a link back to our site. Please also be considerate of other users and do not use robots or other devices to systematically download these works as this may be disruptive to our systems."

As Maria Bustillos from The Awl notes, I think we have Aaron Swartz to thank for this. And I echo her in doing so.

Swartz, an early Reddit-er and founder of DemandProgress was indicted earlier this year for felony hacking for downloading some 4-odd million academic journals from JSTOR. Charges against him include wire fraud, computer fraud, and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer. Swartz, who has a court date later this week, faces up to 35 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.

The news from JSTOR is well-received by academics, no doubt, but it's also well-timed with these proceedings. Neither MIT, the university where Swartz allegedly hacked the library system, nor JSTOR seemed interested in prosecuting Swartz. But the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, sure did, telling The New York Times, "Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars."

Rest assured, scholars everywhere, even though Swartz allegedly "stole" 4 million journal articles, they're still all available in JSTOR. And now, you too can access the early journal content for free.

How JSTOR's announcement will impact Swartz's trial, however, remains to be seen.


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