Student Could Get 8 Years for Sharing Paper Online
He falls foul of tough Colombian copyright law
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2014 2:05 AM CDT
Updated Aug 3, 2014 12:03 PM CDT
"Sharing is not a crime," Gomez says.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – A grad student in Colombia who says he just wanted to help other researchers—and the endangered amphibians they study—could get up to eight years in prison for copyright infringement after sharing a research paper he found online. Diego Gomez, 26, posted the paper on a file-sharing site and is being prosecuted under tough copyright laws introduced as part of Colombia's 2006 free trade agreement with the US, Slate reports. Even though the author was credited and the work was already online, the other academic filed a complaint for "violation of economic rights and related rights," Gomez says in an open letter explaining his plight.

"Today what the vast majority of the country's researchers and conservationists are doing, despite being committed to spreading knowledge, is turning us into criminals," writes Gomez, who says he was shocked to find that knowledge in "biological sciences, which generally do not obey the market logic, is considered similar to software or an artistic work for commercial exploitation." The case shows "the real-life harm of overreaching restrictions due to excessive laws that protect the 'economic rights' of authors," writes Maira Sutton at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Gomez only wanted to share these articles to further his life mission to protect native wildlife and to allow others with a similar passion to access this research. He is only one of countless thousands who risk themselves every day to push against the prohibitive restraints of copyright." (Copyright problems also got this bar owner into $21,000 worth of trouble.)

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Aug 4, 2014 1:06 AM CDT
'Tis a bit like what happened to Indian farmers that saved seed for next year's crop and were told they had to pay Monsanto for the seed, as Monsanto's pollen transferred a gene they have a patent on. Farmers have been saving seed for generations and now the airshed is political by the intrusion of patented pollen and screwy international patent laws, forcing poor farmers to buy seed each season, as it is impossible to NOT have the gene in a field of seed saved by a poor farmer when Monsanto seeds are planted in the same airshed. Some trade laws are not the friendliest.
Aug 3, 2014 6:33 PM CDT
The article reminds us of the restaurant owner who played music without royalties. This person shared the paper for academic reasons for no monetary gain. The author should have the right to ask that it be removed but there is no way the student should face jail. As for the restaurant owner, that guy was straight up stealing intellectual property and he should go to jail. Big difference.
Aug 3, 2014 5:00 PM CDT
This is surprising in that in an academic setting the free exchange and sharing of ideas and research results, whether its your original work or that of someone else, is what fuels scientific inquiry and progress. If anything, Mr Gomez was aiding the original author. I also don't understand why the author, who was duly cited, pressed this issue and is upset. The dissemination of his work to third parties, who have an interest in the same topic, serves to enhance his credentials and reputation as being an "expert", as well as the prestige for the institution he's associated with. THAT usually leads to more research funding and opens doors for invitations to speak at conferences.