This article by Christopher Kelty made me have so many feels. I got sad, and then I got angry, and then I got sad again, and it left me just on the wrong side of hopelessness.
It talked about the shuttering of library.nu, an illegal purveyor of over 400,000 digital books with a user base comprised chiefly of the "global middle class," i.e., poor. The article profiled the typical users in this way: "Maybe they were students once, but went on to find jobs and found families. We made them in some cases - we gave them a four-year taste of the life of the mind before sending them on their way with unsupportable loans. In other cases, they made themselves, by hook or by crook." We're talking people who are hungry to learn, but lacking the megabucks necessary to compile the kind of library they'd eagerly devour.
Library.nu was meeting that need.
OK, yes, linking to illegally copied digital versions of copyrighted books is illegal. But why? This is the sharing of ideas, the transmission of information. It's giving people the means of education, the means of providing a fulfilling and enriched life. Publishers say they are "protecting" the work of authors, but are they? By restricting access to their work, I suggest that publishers are doing authors a disservice--fewer people read it, fewer people can engage with it, and fewer people can expand and build upon it.
I just finished a module on open access that included some readings about institutional repositories--where scholars and researchers submit their work into a self-archived, usually online and open, repository rather than having it published in a journal. And while there are problems with this (such as the lack of the "prestige" of publication), I really see far more advantages, both to authors and academia as a whole, as well as the wider world of curious learners.
What really sent me over the top with this article was the comparison to the pharmaceutical industry and their restriction of AIDS medications in favor of profits and "intellectual property."
ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME.
So maybe education is not life and death, but it's unarguably up there on the List of Important Things (Maslow be damned).
I find it deplorable that we live in a world in which sharing information is criminal, but restricting it is common practice.