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Colombian researcher cleared of prison-term criminal charges for sharing one academic paper online

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Three years ago, Colombian researcher Diego Gomez was charged with copyright infringement for uploading one (1) academic paper to Scribd, and was facing four to eight years in prison for the allegedly heinous act of sharing knowledge. This week, the Colombian court acquitted him of all charges.

The Right-to-Research Coalition celebrates the ruling, and says it points out the need to make it absolutely clear that the default must be “open” for research papers.

This case is a result of changes to Colombian law in the wake of 2006 “free trade deals” with the United States, when Colombia was obliged to turn up its copyright protection enforcement to 11 – much like the deals the US are trying to enforce elsewhere (see SOPA, ACTA, TPP, TTIP, TISA, etc). In this, just like elsewhere in the world, laws deviated sharply from public perception of justice: studies have shown that people have considerably less respect for copyright law than for speed limits on the highway.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reported on the case in 2014, and describes how freedom of expression and intellectual freedom suffer with severe prison sentences on the line for copyright infringement.

“A graduate student is facing four to eight years in prison for sharing an academic article on the Internet. He wasn’t making a personal profit from sharing the article — he simply intended for other scientists like him to be able to access and cite this scientific research.” — EFF

The EFF quotes the Colombian Fundación Karisma, who took on Gomez’ case and explains how laws dictated mostly by Hollywood and the obsolete record industry are completely out of touch with today’s perception of justice:

“Without prejudice to the pending debate on the subject, it should be clear that the actions of users, non-profit

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