As a Swarthmore College Library user, it is probable that Jstor is your favorite source of full-text, scholarly articles. Jstor is an amazing resource, but it is expensive, and you can only access its content as a member of the Swarthmore College Community. So if you are a senior, and you have not yet applied to graduate school, in just a few months you could be living without Jstor—mostly.
Ithaka (Jstor’s parent non-profit organization) has just decided to provide free public access to currently digitized journal content published before 1923. Copyrights are expired on works published before 1923 so such works can be reproduced and disseminated freely. Still, reproduction and dissemination of content are not without costs. Jstor will be absorbing digitization, hosting, and interface costs for the free content.
Free access to out of Copyright articles is seen as a victory for the open access publishing movement, which advocates making academic publications available publicly. Students of science will be familiar with pubmed, a major example of an open access database for all research funded by the National Institutes of Health. New open access journals are being initiated frequently.
Jstor’s release of post-copyright works is connected with two recent high profile mass fileshares by individuals who are associated with the open access movement of Jstor’s public domain articles. While it is hard to paint the non-profit Jstor as an impediment to freedom on information, some librarians want to take open access further. The release of pre-1923 articles is limited, and does not imply a precedent. There is no word yet as to whether the free early journal content will expand in 2012 to include articles copyrighted before 1924…
Credit for illuminated “J” image: http://www.fromoldbooks.org/