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 lost. 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 via | Open Access Manifesto
On Days, coming, bygones and persistent
The marking of a day named after a particular section of the population or a particular political cause or even a slogan could be seen as a secular festival and was used to remember and rally supporters, amplify and spread the central message of the movement.
What is interesting is that most of these post-1945 days originated from within state institutions or global institutions, whose massive bureaucracies were deployed to popularise them.
However, over the past few decades these days have been captured, almost wholesale, by corporate interests which shamelessly use them to market their goods and launch public relations exercises. This takeover by the private sector has paralleled the retreat of the State and the spread of neo-liberalism as the hegemonic ruling ideology of our times.
Thus, the various days to mark different diseases provide excellent opportunities for corporate hospitals and health insurers to frighten people and access their services. Women’s Day is similarly used to make women “feel good” by making them purchase cosmetics.
The recent World Environment Day (5 June) is a case in point. If it were not for the advertisements which were splashed all over the newspapers or the various “events” organised by different companies and showrooms, one would never have remembered that 5 June was World Environment Day.
The political power of the private sector is the foundation on which the negotiations over climate change have become so intractable.
Events like World Environment Day (and the earlier Earth Day and Earth Hour) have now become opportunities for these pursuers of private profit to greenwash themselves and hide their politics.
We perhaps need to abandon all these special “Days” and find newer, better tools for building solidarities, raising public awareness and celebrating our politics.
via Greenwash Day.