Opening Access to the Royal Society

Earlier this year, it made headlines when the Royal Society opened its archives of historic, interesting, and sometimes just downright strange articles. The quieter story is the two men who made this happen, as related to me by the ever-informative OpenDNA:

The first is one well-known activist, who was arrested & indicted (keywords: jstor Swartz). The second was a regular dude who, upon hearing of the first’s actions, felt morally compelled to upload the public domain Royal Society records (keywords: jstor Maxwell).

From the manifesto of Greg Maxwell, included in the Pirate Bay upload:

I’ve had these files for a long time, but I’ve been afraid that if I published them I would be subject to unjust legal harassment by those who profit from controlling access to these works. I now feel that I’ve been making the wrong decision. …If I can remove even one dollar of ill-gained income from a poisonous industry which acts to suppress scientific and historic understanding, then whatever personal cost I suffer will be justified — it will be one less dollar spent in the war against knowledge.”

Somewhere between the uncomfortable question of “Why exactly are we being asked to pay $30 for a 300-year old letter that’s already digital?” and the files being torrented into the wild, access was formally opened to the public.

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