Feb 19, 2016

Custodians.online – The Struggle over the Future of »Pirate« Libraries and Universal Access to Knowledge

A discussion with economist and piracy researcher Balázs Bodó and former fellows and media activists Marcell Mars, Tomislav Medak and Femke Snelting

Date: Feb 19, 2016, 19:00 Uhr

Duration: Feb 19, 2016

Location: Akademie Schloss Solitude

In the framework of the Authorship project, Akademie Schloss Solitude together with former and current fellows initiates a debate on the status of the author in the 21st century as well as closely related questions on the copyright system. The event »Custodians.online – The Struggle over the Future of ›Pirate‹ Libraries and Universal Access to Knowledge« is part of the debate by which the Akademie offers its fellows to articulate diverse and already long existing positions regarding this topic.

The potential to achieve universal access to knowledge and culture has expanded immensely through digital networks, making it possible for much of the world’s population to retrieve the most recent scientific output. However, the copyright regulation has largely continued to operate on the grounds of exclusion, thus allowing industries to harness digital technologies to bar access and to extract vast profits. Nowhere is that more evident than in academic publishing, a 10 billion dollar global industry, with the result that whoever has no access to wealthy academic institutional libraries has no other option but to seek access in disregard of the law.

One very prominent example of this dilemma is a recent injunction that a New York court awarded Elsevier, the largest academic publisher in the world, allowing it to shut down the web platforms Sci-Hub and Library Genesis, which serve for many students, academics and non-academics across the world as the only source of access to scientific journals and books. For Alexandra Elbakyan, founder of Sci-Hub, this case questions fundamental attitudes towards access to knowledge and culture: »If Elsevier manages to shut down our projects or force them into the darknet, that will demonstrate an important idea: that the public does not have the right to knowledge.« In the aftermath of the shutdown, an informal group of activists working on shadow libraries has issued a public call to mass civil disobedience. It was a call to everyone publishing their writing behind the backs of their publishers, circumventing pay-walls, sharing publications, maintaining repositories – custodians of the knowledge commons – to stand up publicly for the collective right to access to knowledge.

In discussion with the signees of the public letter, Balázs Bodó, economist and piracy researcher at the Institute for Information Law in Amsterdam, will provide insights into his research on »pirate« libraries, while former fellows Marcell Mars, Tomislav Medak and Femke Snelting will present the Custodians.online letter.

The event is part of the Public Library project and is held as part of the art, science & business program.

Participants of the Public Library project present at the discussion:

Clemens Apprich, Leuphana University of Lüneburg/Germany
Balázs Bodó, Institute for Information Law, Amsterdam/Netherlands
Ted Byfield, independent academic, moderator of ‹nettime›, New York, NY/USA
Gary Hall Coventry University, Coventry/United Kingdom
Rosemary Grennan, MayDay Rooms, London/United Kingdom
Antonia Majača, Institute for Contemporary Art at the Graz University of Technology, Graz/Austria
Marcell Mars, Tomislav Medak, Public Library/Multimedia Institute, Zagreb/Croatia
Femke Snelting, Constant, Brussels/Belgium
Felix Stalder, Zurich University of the Arts, Zurich/Switzerland
Dennis Tenen, PiracyLab/Columbia University, New York
Milica Tomić, Institute for Contemporary Art at the Graz University of Technology, Graz
Alan Toner, political activist, Berlin/Germany

The discussion will be held in English. Admission is free.