JSTOR monopolizing public knowledge

Instead of celebrating free access to scholarly articles for alums (“Yale alumni to gain access to JSTOR,” Oct. 11), you should be asking why access to research should be denied to anyone in the digital age.

When a scholar publishes research in an academic journal, neither the author nor the journal editor is typically paid. Yet JSTOR and a handful of other companies that control academic publishing reap millions by charging exorbitant prices for subscriptions to libraries and high per-article fees to individuals not affiliated with those libraries. These paywalls are particularly indefensible since so much of academic research is funded, directly or indirectly, through public funds in the first place.

Your article also states that “freedom of access” activist Aaron Swartz was indicted for “stealing” articles from JSTOR, thus echoing the US Attorney’s characterization of the case: “Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.” Is downloading articles that should be in the public domain in the first place really the equivalent of breaking into someone’s home with a crowbar and stealing their silver? JSTOR didn’t lose its articles. They remain just accessible on their site as before, at least for those with cash or connections.

JSTOR may be a “trusted digital archive,” as your article states, but it also acts as a significant barrier to the dissemination of academic knowledge, something that students, faculty, administrators and alumni should question rather than applaud.

Kelsey Kauffman

Oct. 14

The writer is a 1971 graduate of Trumbull College