Right to Research Coalition


Young Researcher Cleared by Colombian Court for Sharing an Academic Paper Online

Unprecedented Case Points to Need to Make Open the Default for Communicating Research

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ranit Schmelzer, 202.538.1065, media@sparcopen.org 
Washington, DC (May 24, 2017) – In 2014, Diego Gomez, then a biology master’s student at the University of Quindio in Colombia, learned he was under investigation for posting an academic paper to Scribd, a service that hosts millions of documents on its online platform. The author of the paper started criminal proceedings against Gomez under Colombia’s strict copyright laws for the “violation of [his] economic and related rights.” He faced up to eight years in prison and significant monetary fines.
Today, after more than three years of hearings and delay, a Colombian court acquitted Gomez of all charges. However, those leading Diego’s defense expect that today’s ruling will be appealed to the Tribunal de Bogota.
“Today’s innocent verdict comes as a relief to thousands of Open Access supporters who have been following Diego Gomez’s case for over three years,” said Nick Shockey, Director, The Right to Research Coalition. “But it in no way diminishes the need to make open the default for communicating research. The closed system of academic publishing continues to put researchers in a perilous position by forcing them to use workarounds to read paywalled research. Diego is the only known student to face criminal charges for posting an academic paper online, which he did to share the work with those in his field who may have also been interested in its findings. His case echoes that of Aaron Swartz, and should serve as a clarion call for the support of Open Access, which must become the global default in academic publishing.”
Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. Open Access is the needed modern update for the communication of research that fully utilizes the Internet for what it was originally built to do—accelerate research.
Even the best ideas remain just that until they are shared and can be utilized by others. The more people that can access and build upon the latest research, the more valuable that research becomes and the more likely we are to benefit as a society.
Even with today’s action, the drawn-out situation for Gomez is not over. With the expected appeal, Diego will have to return to his research fieldwork facing the possibility of imprisonment for sharing an academic research article online. Diego’s defense team plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support the cost of defending the appeal. Those who wish to help Diego can sign the following petition and will be notified when the crowdfunding campaign launches: http://www.sharingisnotacrime.org
Learn more about Diego Gomez’s case here and about open access here.
The Right to Research Coalition is an international alliance of graduate and undergraduate student organizations, which collectively represent millions of students in over 100 countries around the world, that advocate for and educate students about open research practices.  The Right to Research Coalition is a project of SPARC.