Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it
for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published
over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked
up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the
most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to
publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought
valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but
instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow
anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only
apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work
of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at
Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite
universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s
outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights,
they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly
legal – there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can,
something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources – students, librarians, scientists – you
have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while
the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not – indeed, morally, you
cannot – keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with
the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download
requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have
been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information
locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called
stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral
equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t
immoral – it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to
let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they
operate require it – their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the
politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the
exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light
and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to
this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share
them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to
the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to
download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need
to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message
opposing the privatization of knowledge – we’ll make it a thing of the past.
Will you join us?

Aaron Swartz

July 2008, Eremo, Italy

信息就是力量。但就像所有力量一样,有些人只想占为己有。世界上所有的科学和文化遗产,已在书籍和期刊上发布了数个世纪,正渐渐地被少数私有的公司数字化并上锁。想要阅读那些有着最著名研究成果的论文?你必须支付给如 Reed Elsevier 这样的出版商大把钱。

有人努力去改变这种状况。开放访问运动 (Open Access Movement) 奋勇斗争,确保科学家们没有将他们的版权签署给别人,而是将他们的成果发布到网络上,允许任何人访问它们。但即便是最好的情况,他们的行为也只作用于未来发布的东西。之前的都将失去。

这样的代价实在太高。强制学者付钱以阅读他们同行的成果?扫描整个图书馆却只允许 Google 的人阅读它们?提供科学文章给那些第一世界的精英大学,却不给身在南半球的儿童?这实在蛮横且无法接受。

“我同意,”有些人就说了,“但是我们能做什么呢?那些公司握有版权,他们靠限制访问赚取大把的钱,而且这是完全合法的 – 我们没有办法阻止他们。”但有些事我们能做,这些事我们已经在做:我们可以反击。

那些能够访问这些资源的人 – 学生,图书管理员,科学家 – 你们被赋予了特权。你们能享受到这知识的盛宴,而其他人却被排除在外。但是你们不必 – 事实上,从道义层面来说,你们不能 – 为保留自己保留这份特权。你们有义务和全世界分享它。而且你们已经在做了:和同行们交换密码,回应朋友们的下载请求。



大公司,当然,就是利欲熏心。使它们运转的法律要求使然 – 稍微出点事投资人就得叛乱。它们收买的政治家们支持它们,通过法案让它们拥有专属的权力决定谁可以复制。




亚伦·斯沃茨 (Aaron Swartz)

2008 年 7 月,意大利 Eremo