Ethics, Access, Libraries, Wikileaks

Somebody just sent me a link to Bill Sleeman‘s take on libraries and Wikileaks (presented at University of Wisconsin in January). I thought it was quite good, and as usual I’m responding slowly (that is, late in the game). Sleeman raises a few good questions about Wikileaks, commends the Library of Congress for initially blocking access, and also suggests that the American Library Association (ALA) may have moved a bit too quickly in its resolution to broadly support Assange and Wikileaks last year. Among the points Sleeman raises are:

  • What were and are Assange’s and Wikileaks motivations?
  • Is it ethical to provide access to information spuriously gained? Is is event possible to authenticate the documents from the Wikileaks dump of last year?
  • What unitnended consequences might arise from the case? For example, it may trigger greater Federal oversight of libraries, or greater control of the Internet.

At the same time, Sleeman’s suggestion that the Wikileaks information is “stolen” is questionable. Certainly, the documents (and their resultant digital information objects) may be taken without permission, but nothing was really stolen. Or was it? As suggests, “Copying is not theft.”
I don’t have any answers, but Sleeman’s piece is worth a read, and it’s good to see not everyone blindly following the herd for ideological reasons alone.