The Pirates of Intelligentsia

There is a lot of buzz these days about the JSTOR hack. I think plenty of people covered it well enough fact wise but not so much culture wise at least in my view.

Scientist in the 16th century stole corpses to draw them ( and we poop when someone steals some articles, good god.

The term sheeple comes to mind. (

I don’t condone stealing, had my car broken into once, it sucked. I don’t think copying something is stealing and I don’t think most reasonable people do, here is a nice article on the point.

I don’t advocate grave robbing. I should just put that out there.

One very clear part of the argument, clearly stated here is that the access worth a damn is worth paying for and while the pricing of JSTOR might be wrong and that having these companies as the gate keepers of knowledge is shady at best…there still is a need to have someone sort all that wisdom out so you can use find what you need.

It’s tricky to find what you need, I’ve argued that you need librarians for the very reason that information and the organization of information no matter how skillfully done still needs a librarian at some point. I get it.

And I get that the commodification impedes progress, a nice article here explores the idea while mildly chastising the naughty boy who took all those boring papers.

And looks like some some intellectual types see the bigger picture (and noticed the Scholarly Kitchen is full of poop).

It could be, that the sharing of scholarly materials might become the new body snatching for science. What if poor nations used pirated copies of books and articles to teach the poor…what moral ground would that put us in? How would you punish them Mr. Publisher?

I get that premium metadata takes some person working hard doing something technical to make the information in articles findable and useful. I’ve argued that librarians are necessary to bridge even well described and index information, so point taken. Whoever is making the metadata needs to get paid and hopefully insured and I’m sure there is lots of overhead I’m not thinking of to get articles well described.

Hell, I’ll argue the same is for musicians, actors and authors all seeing their work getting zipped around for free and thinking darkly how much they could have gotten paid.

But the discount rack was always there, I recall buying used CDs and movies, I can buy used books for much less than they are offered for new and the makers didn’t see a penny of the second sale. Speaking of second sales, just saying if you bought a $20.00 DVD and have kids, you are a criminal for backing it up and if you don’t back it up and download it even after you bought it you are still a criminal which goes for music and books as well. Doesn’t seem reasonable.

Cultural contributions of music and movies aside for a moment, articles are a little different. For one, academic researchers need them for their jobs. That job includes creating information that did not exist before and making money off the hopes and dreams of desperate people who think that a degree is worth more than their college debt. Ha ha we are all doomed.

But, really, academic researchers find themselves at the mercy of the commodification of their very endeavor which was once thought noble but is now just pawn in the market force.

So, if your value is the expansion of human knowledge what are you going to do? Rob the grave or just sit and imagine?

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