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Bogota court confirms ruling: the biologist Diego Gómez acquitted of copyright infringement charges


In a case that gained international attention and could become a bad precedent for the circulation of scientific research in Colombia.

December 4, 2017 | Bogota, Colombia

In 2014, when he was still a biology student at the University of Quindío in Colombia, Diego Gómez shared an academic paper on Scribd, a service that hosts millions of documents on its online platform. The author of the document, using Colombia’s strict copyright laws, filed a complaint for the infringement of his copyrights before the criminal justice system and Diego was identified as responsible.

Today, more than three years after the criminal proceedings began, the Bogotá Court confirmed the first instance ruling in favor of the biologist Diego Gómez, in a criminal trial that could have meant 4 to 8 years in prison and a heavy fine for sharing an academic document online.

“The decision of the Bogotá Court confirms what we have said over the years: sharing knowledge on the Internet cannot be a criminalised practice. Today we are celebrating that justice was obtained in a case that is now known worldwide and that showed the serious consequences of unbalanced copyright laws,” said Carolina Botero, Karisma Foundation’s director, a Colombian civil society organization that has supported Gomez since 2014 with the Sharing is not a crime campaign.

The decision is cause for celebration for those who support the Open Access movement around the world, a model that seeks to leverage technology to enable immediate, online access, without subscription or fee-based registration requirements, to educational, academic and scientific digital materials circulating under a free license that also allows for their reuse and copy. In view of the monopoly of academic publishers, the Open Access model is an opportunity to accelerate the research process and achieve a greater impact on society.

While it is possible that the process may continue with a cassation appeal, today we welcome the fact that the justice confirmed that sharing is not a crime.

The Karisma Foundation thanks all the people who have joined the crowdfunding campaign in recent months to cover legal defense costs. This campaign will remain open until the process is finally over. Thanks to the contributions, Diego has been able to face this long process.

Learn more about Diego Gómez’s case here and open access here.

Diego Gómez found innocent!

Karisma Foundation. Press Release.

Colombian biologist is acquitted of charges of copyright violations for sharing an academic paper online


May 24, 2017 | Bogota, Colombia

A case with no precedent that highlights the need for Open Access to be the rule, no the exception, regarding circulation of scientific research.

Today, more than three years after criminal procedures began, Bogotá Circuit Criminal Court No. 49 acquitted the biologist Diego Gómez of charges of copyright violations for sharing an academic paper online. A conviction would have represented  a sentence of 4 to 8 years in prison and a significant fine.

The case began in 2014 when prosecutors filed charges against Gomez. A few years earlier, when he was a biology student at the University of Quindio in Colombia, Diego Gómez shared on the internet a master’s thesis he had found useful for his study group on amphibians. He uploaded it to Scribd, a service that hosts millions of documents on its online platform.

The author of the paper pressed criminal charges under Colombia’s strict copyright laws for the “violation of [his] economic and related rights.” that ended up individualizing Diego as the responsible. Today’s verdict comes after more than three years of hearings and delay.

“The decision of the Court is an important step that guides Colombian criminal justice towards international standards where this measure is reserved only for piracy. This case must spark a serious debate over the necessity of Open Access. Today we celebrate that justice was made in an absurd case that could have set a bad precedent for access to knowledge in Colombia,” said Carolina Botero, director of Fundación Karisma, a civil society organization that has supported Gómez since 2014 through “Sharing is not a crime” campaign. However, Diego’s defence expects the Prosecutor or the claimant to appeal the Court’s decision and the process to continue before Bogotá High Court.

Open Access allows immediate and online access, without subscription or payment requirements, to educational, academic and scientific material that is distributed with a free licence that also allows its reuse and copy. This is a model that updates a broken scientific publication system to the internet dynamic and a model that returns to its original function: accelerate the research process.

“Today’s innocent verdict comes as a relief to thousands of Open Access supporters who have been following Diego Gomez’s case for almost three years,” said Nick Shockey, Director of The Right to Research Coalition. “Diego is the only known student to face criminal charges for posting an academic paper online. 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.”

With the appeal process pending, Diego must return to his work as a wildlife researcher having in mind that a conviction for sharing an academic paper online is still possible.

Fundación Karisma will launch a crowdfunding campaign soon with the support of international allies. The campaign has three goals. First, cover the legal fees of the appeal process and the exploration of legal means to prevent cases such as Diego’s from happening again. Second, the production of a case study that allows to tell Diego’s story and to highlight the need for open access to knowledge. Finally, crowdfunding resources will be spent on lodging and traveling costs for Diego, who currently works on a natural reserve in Costa Rica. Those who wish to help Diego can sign the following petition and will be notified when the crowdfunding campaign launches:

More info on Diego’s case here. More on Open Access here.

Defendant’s lawyers are Claudio Iván Zambrano Pinzón and Luis Bernardo Alzate Gómez. Technical counseling was provided by Germán Realpe Delgado

On social networks, people has supported Diego Gómez with the hashtag #CompartirNoEsDelito and around the world, with #StandWithDiego.

Contact: Carolina Botero Cabrera.


Office Phone number: (57 1) 738 98 60



Final hearing. Stand with Diego because #SharingIsNotACrime

UPDATE: Today, the defense and the prosecutor presented their final arguments, and the judge decided to postpone her decision until May 24, 2017.

Bogotá,  April 19th, 2017

This morning, the final hearing in the case of the Colombian biologist Diego Gómez, for alleged infringement of copyright and related rights will be held. During this hearing, the defense and the prosecutor will present their final arguments.

In Karisma Foundation, we maintain all our support to Diego and we hope that today, the guarantee of the right of access to knowledge will prevail.

We invite you to say on Internet why you are also convinced that #SharingIsNotACrime








Update: Diego Gomez’s hearing was postponed. Let’s keep saying #SharingIsNotACrime

Bogotá, 25th January, 2017

The hearing that was scheduled for today in the case against  Diego Gómez, Colombian graduate student, who is facing criminal charges for alleged copyright infringement was postponed.

We are grateful to everyone who has been close to the case, following it and supporting us to defend the access to knowledge.

The pending hearing is important since the final arguments will be presented and the judge will give the sense of his judgement (guilty or not). Unfortunately, as we have witnessed in this case, the postponements of hearings in the Colombian judicial system is common. Even if all parties are in the best mood to advance, there are always situations that are difficult to control. In this opportunity Diego’s defender was scheduled another hearing at the same time, but that defendant is in prison. As Diego is not in prison, his process does not have priority and he must give the agenda to the other.

This situation postpones once again the decision within the process but should not discourage us to continue aside Diego and to continue to defend open access to knowledge as a social value that has a real impact on people’s lives.

This week, Creative Commons said on its blog, “On repeat, forever: Why are students criminalized for sharing knowledge?”, that “the prosecution of Diego is yet another example of copyright overreach, where rights holders can unfairly leverage the law so that even a minor violation leads to major negative repercussions for both the individual involved and society as a whole.”

The OpenCon community also expressed its support for  Sharing is Not Crime campaign with a message that circulated in social networks and via e-mail. This message has been supported by the voices of scientists and activists around the world who reject the situation that Diego is facing.

From  Karisma Foundation and on behalf of Diego, we thank all the people and organizactions who have shared, commented and spread the news about the case. This postponement serves to strengthen our spirit and continue the struggle for open access as the rule and not as an exception for scientific publications and to prevent cases like Diego’s from happening again. We will let you know the date of the hearing as soon as we are notified of it. .

Show your support to Diego:

Sign the Statement to Support Open Access Worldwide promoted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, Internet Archive, among others. It has been signed for more than 10,000 people. Let’s continue saying #CompartirNoEsDelito #SharingIsNotACrime

For Open Access Week we discuss the case of Diego Gomez

diego_3Press release

Bogota, October 26, 2016.

In July 2014, Karisma Foundation, a Colombian civil society organization that works to defend the right of access to knowledge and culture in digital environments, made public the case of Diego Gomez, a Colombian biologist facing criminal proceedings in Colombia for sharing a thesis on the Internet. “The case of Diego is certainly absurd, it reminds us that the imbalance of the rules can affect anyone, and therefore it concerns us all” said Carolina Botero at the beginning of this case. Three years later, this phrase still has the same importance, and the case remains unsolved.

For this week’s planned hearing, both the prosecution and the defense were to present their closing arguments before a final ruling is made. Earlier in the week, the prosecution filed a request for continuance since the prosecutor in charge would be on vacation and doesn’t wish to be absent given the significance of the case. At the moment we are awaiting new hearing date.

The case of Diego Gomez reminds us that current copyright laws are hindering the balance that must exist with other fundamental rights such as the rights to freedom of expression, education, and access to knowledge and culture. With the popularization of the Internet, it became obvious to anyone that learning is not an individual act, but the result of a process of communication and collaboration. As the researcher Achal Prabhala warned in the introduction to the report GIS Watch (Global Information Society Watch) 2009 “knowledge is more than just formal education, and the internet provides limitless ways in which it can be redefined and multiplied. The overzealous application of intellectual property significantly limits the manner in which knowledge operates online.”

As we wait for the ruling in the case of Diego Gomez, Karisma invites you to join the campaign #CompartirNoEsDelito, sign the petition for global support for Open Access mobilized by other organizations such as EFF, Creative Commons, and Open Access Button, or to share these audios on social media in support of open access.


If open access were the default, cases like mine were obsolete

February 5th, 2016

Greetings friends,

This week a new hearing took place as part of the criminal process against me in Paloquemao court in Bogota, Colombia.

During two days of hearing (February 1st and 2nd/ 2016) the prosecution finished presenting their witnesses and my defense began with our witnesses. We now know that the process will continue in May.

The notice of this hearing was a good excuses to talk once again about the importance of open access and the relationship it has with my case. So I want to thank all the organizations that have supported me; Fundación Karisma, Open Access Button, EFF, Sparc, Creative Commons, all of them rekindled during the last days of campaigns #CompartirNoEsDelito, #StandWithDiego and the global declaration  supporting open access to knowledge that over 24,000 person signed until now.

Also, I want to thank my family, friends and thousands of partners that felt identified with my cause. Until today everything went very well, but as I said, the process continues. It is a long and exhausting process that I have tried to take as another experience in my life.

This situation has not  broken me on the contrary it has strengthened me to fully complete my Masters in Conservation (three years) that it has been escorted by the shadow of this criminal case. I chhose to use this situation as an element  element to shape and refine my life, in both ways personally and professionally. Today, that shadow is just a speck compared to the great challenges that we have preserving our biodiversity and the survival of the species, this concern currently has all my attention and I think we can solve it more easily if we remove barriers to access to knowledge.

Let’s keep saying #SharingIsNotaCrime

Diego Gómez

If open access were the default​ ​ rather than the exception

Almost a year and half after sending the first tweet about #standwithdiego we still hear echoes of a campaign that aroused interest in a debate that we have pending in Colombia: the balance that should exist between rights that are in constant tension, copyright and the right of access to knowledge. These echoes still ring through the initiative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation “Let’s stand together to promote open access worldwide” and the support of organizations such as Open Access Button, who has an interesting tool to search academic articles moving in Open Access (It can be install as a supplement in your browser). (From the op ed “Diego Gomez and the importance of the commons“)

Today we need to raise our voices to support Diego. This 1st and 2nd of February (2016) will take place an oral hearing as part of criminal proceedings that Diego is facing. Since the  beginning we belive the best way to support Diego is by highlighting the importance of open access. For this purpose we  prepared this infographic (In Spanish) that you can share freely:





Several months ago Diego decided to release under a Creative Commons license his set of photographs in Flickr dedicated to biodiversity creative license. A beautiful gallery that is already part of the commons we share online.

License your creations. Published in open access.  Support Diego Gomez.

Everyday we are more saying #SharingIsNotACrime

Hi again to everybody,

At the end of June I was in Bogotá in order to be in the hearing in which I’d present evidence supporting my innocence. This, as a part of the criminal process against me for copyright infringement and related rights. The hearing was deferred as a result of my lawyers’ request. Why?

Because just a few days before the hearing, a group of expert lawyers on criminal procedures joined the defense team. Thus, it was necessary to have more time for the whole team to catch up on my case. The judge approved the request and scheduled the hearing for October 14 and 15, 2015.

The process is moving slowly. In spite of that and the postponement of the hearing of June 30, the supporting voices that have joined me during the process were reactivated. Open Access Button published in their blog an invitation to keep signing the Worldwide Declaration for Open Access promoted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons and Internet Archive. Now there are more than 6700 supporters.

I want to thank all of you who have followed the case and have reactivated your networks to spread the invitation and articles that some media have published during the past month. Thanks for understanding that the postponement was necessary to strengthen my defense arguments and to prove my innocence.

Even though this hasn’t been an easy process, I’ve been surrounded by the support of people around the world who also believe that sharing is not a crime and that open access must be the rule, no the exception, for the circulation of scientific knowledge.

Let’s keep saying #SharingIsNotaCrime

On the verge of the trial, let’s say #SharingIsNotACrime

Costa Rica, June 2015

In July 2014 I wanted to bring attention upon the case I was facing. A year has passed and because of your support, there are more of us who think that sharing can’t be considered a crime in Colombia, nor anywhere else in the world. In this time, the support received from different people and organizations has opened the debate about how the lack of balance in copyright laws may affect anybody, and thus is a matter that concerns everybody.

Thanks for helping me telling what’s going on

My case has had an important media coverage which has been broader than expected. My case has been documented by media such as Newsweek and The Guardian. In Colombia it was covered byCaracol, BluRadio, El Espectador, Semana, and Las 2 orillas. They made all those interviews and opinion editorials because of the lack of precedents in prosecuting someone who shared knowledge through Internet not for money but for the sake of knowledge itself. This coverage has been interesting since it allowed to reflect on how current laws ignore the transformations the Internet as a tool for creation, production and distribution of knowledge has caused.

Several organizations around the world such as Fundación Karisma from Colombia, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) form United States, Creative Commons, Internet Archive, Knowledge Ecology International, Open Access Button, Derechos Digitales, Open Coalition, Open Knowledge, The Right to Research Coalition, Open Media, Fight for the Future, USENIX, Public Knowledge and Web we Want, have brought attention upon my case through campaigns, reports and all kind of efforts supporting the importance of access to knowledge and talking about the particular characteristics of scientific knowledge and its purpose for society. Those campaigns are CompartirNoEsdelito, YoComparto y“Unámonos para promover el acceso abierto en todo el mundo” [Let’s unite to promote open access around the world] to which many of you have joined.

My case was also one of the discussion topics in OpenCon, an event for students, new researchers and scholars. I also presented it in workshops and discussion forums such as the one opened byUniversidad del Quindío, my alma mater, an institution that has supported me through its Virtualization Unit and the show Radio Mutantes of UFM stereo.

Recently, one of the supporting organizations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, published the Special Report 404 in which they analyze my case, amongst others, in light of the pressure exerted to countries like Colombia by the Special Report 301 prepared by USTR of United States. EFF’s Report shows that while Report 301 seeks to reinforce legal systems in favor of copyright holders, cases like mine proves the need of greater balance in favor of public interest.

I am grateful to all of you for the time you have spent sharing the messages of the campaigns through social networks but also talking about my case with family and friends, because it shows that there are lots of people like us who believe that a society may use a disruptive technology like Internet in benefit of education, access to science and culture; that sharing is not a crime and that it cannot be considered a crime against authors.

What about the criminal process?

Because many people showed interest in knowing the state criminal process against me, I want to tell you that this process is slow and not much has happened since the last preparatory hearing in which the prosecutor announced the materials they want to introduce as evidence into the process.

That trial was scheduled for November of 2014 but it was cancelled because of the judiciary strike. I am currently living in Costa Rica because I’m finishing my master’s degree on Wildlife conservation and soon I’ll be presenting my defense of the corresponding thesis. Given that I am about to return to Colombia and the new date for the trial was fixed to April of 2015, the Judge accepted my lawyer’s request for a postponement, so the trial will be held in June 30 of 2015, and I will be present.

During the trial we will introduce evidence and documents that support my innocence. I hope that the judiciary system understand that I used the document for academic purposes and my actions were never motivated by money. I trust the judiciary system and I know my case still can resort to many legal recourses, I’ll keep you informed.

Again, I’d like to say thanks to all of you for the support you have offered me and to tell you that today, more than ever, I’m convinced that “if open access was the default, cases like mine were obsolete”. I want to invite you to keep supporting initiatives in favor of open access to avoid bringing the risk of punishment upon researchers and scholars that share knowledge in the digital age.

Thanks for believing in CompartirNoEsDelito (Sharing Is Not A Crime)

Diego A. Gomez Hoyos

From the situation I face, I highlight the support I have received from so many people in Colombia and worldwide.

October 14th, 2014

The use of FLOSS was my first approach to the open source world. Many times I could not access ecological or statistical software, nor geographical information systems, despite my active interest in using them to make my first steps in research and conservation. As a student, it was impossible for me to cover the costs of the main commercial tools. Today, I value access to free software such as The R project and QGis project, which keep us away from proprietary software when one does not have the budget for researching.

But it was definitely since facing a criminal prosecution for sharing information on the Internet for academic purposes, for ignoring the rigidity of copyright law, that my commitment to support initiatives promoting open access and to learn more about ethical, political, and economic foundations has been strengthened.

I am beginning my career with the conviction that access to knowledge is a global right. The first articles I have published in journals have been under Creative Commons licenses. I use free or open software for analyzing. I also do my job from a social perspective as part of my commitment and as retribution for having access to public education in both Colombia and Costa Rica.

From the situation I face, I highlight the support I have received from so many people in Colombia and worldwide. Particularly, I thank the valuable support of institutions working for our freedom in the digital world. Among them I would like to acknowledge those institutions that have joined the campaign called “Let’s stand together to promote open access worldwide”: EFF, Fundación Karisma, Creative Commons, Internet Archive, Knowledge Ecology International, Open Access Button, Derechos Digitales, Open Coalition, Open Knowledge, The Right to Research Coalition, Open Media, Fight for the Future, USENIX, Public Knowledge and all individuals that have supported the campaign.

If open access was the default choice for publishing scientific research results, the impact of these results would increase and cases like mine would not exist. There would be no doubt that the right thing is to circulate this knowledge, so that it should serve everyone.

Thank you all for your support.
Diego A. Gómez Hoyos