Friday, July 29, 2011

Battle for freedom of information continues

There is no doubt about the level of freedom humankind has reached in terms of accessibility of information. The dramatic change occurred to the way knowledge is acquired, by the birth of the internet and evolution of related technologies through continuous refinement and improvement, has made it possible for almost anyone to gain access to information with relative ease. Most sources of academic materials, or so called academic databases are not free. Perhaps, these databases can be made available for free too. One might wonder in such a situation, whether academia has to be made completely free for everyone universally.

Information, can be categorized into meaningless, misleading, bad, useless, good, authentic, quality etc. The information available for free can be good or bad depending on the motive and intention of the publisher or source. Academic journals, articles, books and the like are deemed authentic good quality sources of knowledge as, they are written to serve a specific purpose. That is, to pass on the knowledge to the seekers. Access to these materials have always been restricted to the seekers’ eyes only.

On the other hand, information available for free is not just for the seekers. They are designed to be force sought by even the non-seekers. For example, advertisements. There could be other materials of some academic value, that are accessible for free, such as Wikipedia and other such endeavors, whose real purpose of doing so may not be completely understood. Whether academic or non-academic, most freely available sources of information can be said as, of poor quality simply because, their authenticity cannot be verified. Their genuineness and quality is not guaranteed by an authoritative academic entity or person.

Good quality academic materials on the other hand, are characteristic of being peer reviewed by well-known academic persons who are qualified to do so. Now that sounds like a lot of efforts and resource utilization. Who would want to do all that for free? Perhaps, opensourcing model might come to the recuse here too?

Found this article at Singularity Hub about a guy who is said to be waging a ferocious war against academic databases by uploading materials obtained from JSTOR as torrent files to The Pirate Bay. Interesting read.


  1. information/knowledge will never be free for has now become a big business...