The Paper Bay

A volunteer service to make research available to those without access

About The Paper Bay

The paperbay is a meeting place for those that seek knowledge and those that have access to knowledge

This project has been in the making since 2007, originally it was to be called open-papers.com. Since then it has been lying dormant and I never felt quite compelled to move forward with it. Until a month ago, that is.

Somewhere between 2007 and today, when I first came up with this concept I got distracted. Life happened, as they say. Family circumstances caused me to lose my idealism in favor of more practical affairs. But the general idea and the sentiment behind it stayed very much alive. A few years ago I got wind of a young man called Aaron Swartz with much the same idea going about it in an extremely bold and potentially very effective way, but he got caught while downloading very large numbers of scientific papers through the MIT network and was sued by the United States federal government.

Aaron took a huge risk, and he took it for all of us. He ended up being made into an example to deter future 'hackers' from attempting to do something similar and was charged with a ridiculous number of infractions, lost all his money and two years of his life on legal battles. Eventually he lost the rest of his life too, taking it himself while fighting the United States government and apparently MIT over not *if* but *how much* jail time he was going to serve over trying to do something good. The service that he took the data from (JSTOR) did the right thing and dropped all charges but in the end the pressure of the lawsuit combined with the possibility of spending a significant time in jail was too much for Aaron.

It's a very sad world where an individual that is trying to do something good, in what was probably the wrong way, but given the restrictions an entirely defensible one is treated like that. And because I don't want *my* kids to grow up in such a world this website (finally) came into being. It is a very small statement compared to what Aaron did, call me a coward if you feel like.

I strongly believe that there is such a thing as 'ethical hacking', that it is possible to do something that is technically illegal where the illegality is outweighed vastly by the public good that comes of it. Laws have a 'letter' and a 'spirit', the spirit of any system of laws is that it makes our society better and that it allows it to function more efficiently by codifying rules in such a way that we all agree the net effect is positive. Copyright law is no exception to that principle. A large number of corporations and a reasonably large chunk of politics have subverted that spirit of the law and have used the letter of that same law to achieve the opposite effect. To make society collectively poorer, to make our general interests inferior to the commercial interests of selected parties. But nobody charges those that do this with any crimes. I am not happy about this, and I very much would prefer a more evenhanded approach when it comes to applying the law, where the asymmetry between the lobbyists, corporations and governments on the one hand and the public, both collectively and individually would be recognized as something inherently bad. Prosecution should not be selective. It should not cost a fortune to defend against such a lawsuit, it should not automatically mean that because of the asymmetry that you are likely to loose, and any kind of judgment should always take into account what the net effect is on society, *especially* when dealing with affairs such as these.

The shock of Aaron taking his own life under these enormous pressures has re-energized my dis-satisfaction with the system and has made me realize that I should not be this passive. No longer content to be a bystander and to let others take the heat for whatever I perceive is wrong I have decided that it is time to act, even if it is in a way that is not nearly as bold as Aarons.

A much wiser man than me said that "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.", and I've been doing nothing for far too long. Whether Edmund Burke really said that or not is disputed but if he did then I'd like to thank him for condensing my feelings about all this into a single sentence.

This website is pretty rough from a layout and a technology perspective, I hope it is useful to you and that you will use it responsibly.

Thanks to everybody that helped during the run-up of this project, your comments and advice was price-less and your support is very much appreciated, David, Ben, Ryan, Kaitlyn, Leo, Bas & Bryan especially, and many others besides.