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Papers from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society






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 This archive contains 18,592 scientific publications totaling
  33GiB, all from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
  and which should be  available to everyone at no cost, but most
  have previously only been made available at high prices through
  paywall gatekeepers like JSTOR.

Limited access to the documents here is typically sold for $19

  USD per article, though some of the older ones are available as
  cheaply as $8. Purchasing access to this collection one article
  at a time would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Also included is the basic factual metadata allowing you to

  locate works by title, author, or publication date, and a
  checksum file to allow you to check for corruption.

ef8c02959e947d7f4e4699f399ade838431692d972661f145b782c2fa3ebcc6a sha256sum.txt

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.

On July 19th 2011, Aaron Swartz was criminally charged by the US Attorney

  General's office for, effectively, downloading too many academic papers
  from JSTOR.

Academic publishing is an odd systemthe authors are not paid for their

  writing, nor are the peer reviewers (they're just more unpaid academics),
  and in some fields even the journal editors are unpaid. Sometimes the
  authors must even pay the publishers.

And yet scientific publications are some of the most outrageously

  expensive pieces of literature you can buy. In the past, the high access
  fees supported the costly mechanical reproduction of niche paper journals,
  but online distribution has mostly made this function obsolete.

As far as I can tell, the money paid for access today serves little

  significant purpose except to perpetuate dead business models. The
  "publish or perish" pressure in academia gives the authors an impossibly
  weak negotiating position, and the existing system has enormous inertia.

Those with the most power to change the system--the long-tenured luminary

  scholars whose works give legitimacy and prestige to the journals, rather
  than the other way around--are the least impacted by its failures. They
  are supported by institutions who invisibly provide access to all of the
  resources they need. And as the journals depend on them, they may ask
  for alterations to the standard contract without risking their career on
  the loss of a publication offer. Many don't even realize the extent to
  which academic work is inaccessible to the general public, nor do they
  realize what sort of work is being done outside universities that would
  benefit by it.

Large publishers are now able to purchase the political clout needed

  to abuse the narrow commercial scope of copyright protection, extending
  it to completely inapplicable areas: slavish reproductions of historic
  documents and art, for example, and exploiting the labors of unpaid
  scientists. They're even able to make the taxpayers pay for their
  attacks on free society by pursuing criminal prosecution (copyright has
  classically been a civil matter) and by burdening public institutions
  with outrageous subscription fees.

Copyright is a legal fiction representing a narrow compromise: we give

  up some of our natural right to exchange information in exchange for
  creating an economic incentive to author, so that we may all enjoy more
  works. When publishers abuse the system to prop up their existence,
  when they misrepresent the extent of copyright coverage, when they use
  threats of frivolous litigation to suppress the dissemination of publicly
  owned works, they are stealing from everyone else.

Several years ago I came into possession, through rather boring and

  lawful means, of a large collection of JSTOR documents.

These particular documents are the historic back archives of the

  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Societya prestigious scientific
  journal with a history extending back to the 1600s.

The portion of the collection included in this archive, ones published

  prior to 1923 and therefore obviously in the public domain, total some
  18,592 papers and 33 gigabytes of data.

The documents are part of the shared heritage of all mankind,

  and are rightfully in the public domain, but they are not available
  freely. Instead the articles are available at $19 each--for one month's
  viewing, by one person, on one computer. It's a steal. From you.

When I received these documents I had grand plans of uploading them to

  Wikipedia's sister site for reference works, Wikisource where they
  could be tightly interlinked with Wikipedia, providing interesting
  historical context to the encyclopedia articles. For example, Uranus
  was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel; why not take a look at
  the paper where he originally disclosed his discovery? (Or one of the
  several follow on publications about its satellites, or the dozens of
  other papers he authored?)

But I soon found the reality of the situation to be less than appealing:

  publishing the documents freely was likely to bring frivolous litigation
  from the publishers.

As in many other cases, I could expect them to claim that their slavish

  reproductionscanning the documents created a new copyright
  interest. Or that distributing the documents complete with the trivial
  watermarks they added constituted unlawful copying of that mark. They
  might even pursue strawman criminal charges claiming that whoever obtained
  the files must have violated some kind of anti-hacking laws.

In my discreet inquiry, I was unable to find anyone willing to cover

  the potentially unbounded legal costs I risked, even though the only
  unlawful action here is the fraudulent misuse of copyright by JSTOR and
  the Royal Society to withhold access from the public to that which is
  legally and morally everyone's property.

In the meantime, and to great fanfare as part of their 350th anniversary,

  the RSOL opened up "free" access to their historic archivesbut "free"
  only meant "with many odious terms", and access was limited to about
  100 articles.

All too often journals, galleries, and museums are becoming not

  disseminators of knowledgeas their lofty mission statements
  suggestbut censors of knowledge, because censoring is the one thing
  they do better than the Internet does. Stewardship and curation are
  valuable functions, but their value is negative when there is only one
  steward and one curator, whose judgment reigns supreme as the final word
  on what everyone else sees and knows. If their recommendations have value
  they can be heeded without the coercive abuse of copyright to silence

The liberal dissemination of knowledge is essential to scientific

  inquiry. More than in any other area, the application of restrictive
  copyright is inappropriate for academic works: there is no sticky question
  of how to pay authors or reviewers, as the publishers are already not
  paying them. And unlike 'mere' works of entertainment, liberal access
  to scientific work impacts the well-being of all mankind. Our continued
  survival may even depend on it.

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 justifiedit will be one
  less dollar spent in the war against knowledge. One less dollar spent
  lobbying for laws that make downloading too many scientific papers
  a crime.

I had considered releasing this collection anonymously, but others pointed

  out that the obviously overzealous prosecutors of Aaron Swartz would
  probably accuse him of it and add it to their growing list of ridiculous
  charges. This didn't sit well with my conscience, and I generally believe
  that anything worth doing is worth attaching your name to.

I'm interested in hearing about any enjoyable discoveries or even useful

  applications which come of this archive.

Greg Maxwell - July 20th 2011 Bitcoin: 14csFEJHk3SYbkBmajyJ3ktpsd2TmwDEBb


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