An open letter to the publishers of JSTOR

Below is a letter co-signed by Elliott Bledsoe and I sent to the President and JSTOR Managing Director at JSTOR’s publisher ITHAKA, encouraging them to name their free accounts in memoriam of Aaron Swartz. Elliott and I are encouraging like-minded people to join us in this call. Please read the letter. If you support the idea, please add your name as a co-signatory in the comments here or on the duplicate post on I encourage you to also read Elliott’s earlier post Aaron Swartz, death of a console cowboy and my own post on depression. Please feel free to share these links with other like-minded people.


Kevin M. Guthrie, President and
Laura Brown, Executive Vice President and JSTOR Managing Director
2 Rector Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10006



Dear Mr Kevin Guthrie and Ms Laura Brown


We join you in expressing our condolences to the family and friends of Aaron Swartz. It is a tragic loss, the extent of which can never be fully realised.


We thank ITHAKA for their decision not to pursue Aaron for his actions involving the JSTOR archive in July 2011. In particular, we respect and support your decision to be public about ITHAKA’s decision. If only all the parties involved had been so up-front about where they stand. We, like many others, believe the United States Attorney’s Office has been over zealous in their pursuit of the matter, and this has had a devastating effect on a man’s life. Copyright should not kill.


As advocates of open access to knowledge, we also applaud your recent decision to introduce free accounts for all users. The recently introduced Register & Read program is an excellent way of encouraging and supporting life-long learning regardless of affiliation with a higher education institution. Moreover it strengthens the ways the organisation delivers on it’s aim to help people discover, use, and build upon the wide range of content held in your database. We strongly support the notion that academic endeavours funded by the public purse should be available to everyone to access and enjoy.


We write to you to make a simple but timely suggestion: name your free accounts in memoriam of Aaron Swartz.


The idea started as a comment on social media, but the more we discussed it the more we saw strength in simplicity. Such a gesture would be a significant vote of confidence in the causes Aaron stood for, and a lasting tribute to Aaron himself. Such a positive public move would help to draw into question the victimisation of Aaron and the attempt to besmirch his name and reputation by the United States Attorney’s Office. It is not our place to decide the il/legality of Aaron’s actions on that day in July 2011, but as advocates of access to knowledge, we cannot sit by and let Aaron’s memory and the culmination of his life’s work become a shadow that discourages brilliant minds from furthering similar pursuits.


What would be a simple thing to implement for ITHAKA would have powerful resonance in a community coming to terms with this tragic loss.


With regards




Fee Plumley & Elliott Bledsoe
and the co-signatories listed in the comments below

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