Colombian master's student Diego Gomez faces up to eight years in prison and crippling monetary fines for sharing another academic's master's thesis with his colleagues online. He recently attended his first preliminary hearing for this case, where the government is pressing charges against Diego under Colombia's stringent criminal copyright provisions.
Academics and students send and post articles online like this every day—it is simply the norm in scholarly communication. And yet inflexible digital policies, paired with senseless and outdated practices, have led to such extreme cases like Diego's. People who experience massive access barriers to existing research—most often hefty paywalls—often have no choice but to find and share relevant papers through colleagues in their network. The Internet has certainly enabled this kind of information sharing at an unprecedented speed and scale, but we are still far from reaching its full capacity.
Scientific progress relies upon the exchange of ideas and research, but outmoded policies and practices continue to present barriers that collectively stifle the Internet's potential. This is why we need open access. Open access makes the results of scholarly research available online for free upon publication (or soon after), and removes barriers for scholarly and educational reuse. Open access policies should make full use of open licenses, allowing researchers to bypass the strictness of copyright law that falls quite contrary to the scientific ideals of openness and collaboration. But on top of this, we must bring about strong, sensible reforms to copyright laws around the world so academics like Diego don't face prison time for doing their research.
Open access is a movement of students, researchers, and concerned individuals who believe this system is broken and that we can do better. When research is shared widely and freely, we all benefit.
We've joined together with the Right to Research Coalition, Creative Commons, and the Open Access Button to raise awareness about this issue. Sign your support for Diego and the ideal of open, unfettered access to knowledge that he stands for!