Posts tagged: copyright
No one should ever go to jail over copyright law.
It is inconceivable to me that anyone should ever die over it. Now someone has.
Aaron Swartz killed himself on Friday. He was 26. A legend in the tech community, probably a dotcom millionaire. He could have lounged around poolside sipping designer martinis for the rest of his days.
Instead he worked for the public good, fighting the copyfight, defending the internet and the public domain.
No one should *ever* die for copyright law.
(Some will say this is not the time. I disagree. This is the time when every mixed emotion needs to find voice.)
Since his arrest in January, 2011, I have known more about the events that began this spiral than I have wanted to know. Aaron consulted me as a friend and lawyer. He shared with me what went down and why, and I worked with him to get help. When my obligations to Harvard created a conflict that made it impossible for me to continue as a lawyer, I continued as a friend. Not a good enough friend, no doubt, but nothing was going to draw that friendship into doubt.
The billions of snippets of sadness and bewilderment spinning across the Net confirm who this amazing boy was to all of us. But as I’ve read these aches, there’s one strain I wish we could resist:
Please don’t pathologize this story.
No doubt it is a certain crazy that brings a person as loved as Aaron was loved (and he was surrounded in NY by people who loved him) to do what Aaron did. It angers me that he did what he did. But if we’re going to learn from this, we can’t let slide what brought him here.
First, of course, Aaron brought Aaron here. As I said when I wrote about the case (when obligations required I say something publicly), if what the government alleged was true — and I say “if” because I am not revealing what Aaron said to me then — then what he did was wrong. And if not legally wrong, then at least morally wrong. The causes that Aaron fought for are my causes too. But as much as I respect those who disagree with me about this, these means are not mine.
But all this shows is that if the government proved its case, some punishment was appropriate. So what was that appropriate punishment? Was Aaron a terrorist? Or a cracker trying to profit from stolen goods? Or was this something completely different?
Early on, and to its great credit, JSTOR figured “appropriate” out: They declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the “criminal” who we who loved him knew as Aaron.
Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.
Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.
For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”
In that world, the question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.” For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million dollar trial in April — his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge. And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it.
Fifty years in jail, charges our government. Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.”
One word, and endless tears.
This is a real baby duck that should not be confused with the Canadian wine of the same name.
Hope the company doesn’t make me change the caption because they could argue that I’m infringing their trademarked name.
What’s that you say? Baby ducks were called “baby duck” before there was such a wine? Well, yes, that’s true, but in the copyright madness escalating throughout the world just now, such things no longer seem to be taken into consideration. The legal minefield of the “Intellectual Property” triumvirate of copyright, patent and trademark law seems to hit the extremes of silliness more often than not.
When a Diamond retailer can be stopped from using the name “Diamonds Are Us” and websites are prevented from using the words “Face” and “Book” in their name, when longstanding businesses can be forced to remove the word “Olympic” from their name by the IOC, anything is possible.
Because I *want* my work to be shared I always use a Creative Commons license but if you want to use this image, you might want to think hard before you decide to keep the caption.
Joan Blondell is riding on an American railway truck, during the filming of her latest film, Other Men’s Women (Warner Brothers, 1931), directed by William Wellman.
We give you: the Declaration of Independence, in Thomas Jefferson’s hand. Click through to see all four pages. (Apologies for the fuzzy quality of the images.)
Amazing, right? This artifact is in the NYPL’s Thomas Addis Emmet Collection, which contains several thousand original prints, drawings, watercolors, and printed book illustrations relating to early American history, primarily from the period leading to the American Revolution through the early years of the nation.
In an NYPL blog post, Thomas Lannon, assistant curator of the Manuscripts & Archives Division, gives a history of this copy of the Declaration and explains how the Library came to own it.
Happy Independence Day!
This *is* amazing, isn’t it. American copyright law has some serious failings, but the one thing the United States does blindingly right (and the one thing the Canadian Government has refused to consider in The Copyright Modernization Act) is that IP produced by the American government is released DIRECTLY into the public domain. The reasoning is flawless; the American people have already paid for it with their tax dollars; they should not have to pay for it a second time.
In Canada, we have the worst of both worlds, an antiquated tradition copied from British Law called “Crown Copyright” which effectively locks up every scrap of IP created by the Canadian Government, preventing citizens from accessing and re-using our own history.
I guess the government considers this a revenue stream; iconic Canadian names like Laura Secord can be used to adorn a chocolatier, and when successful, the company (and the iconic name) can then be sold to American interests, just as the marketing rights for the RCMP were sold to the American Walt Disney Corporation. And of course, Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC refuses to allow any Canadian reuse of any of its content without submitting to onerous licensing fees (through, of course, an American company.)
Ralph Morse: a famous LIFE photographer who shot images of the Beatles in 1964—- he also, in 1947, was chosen to do an exclusive survey of the Lascaux Caves in France. Morse created pictures of the spectacular ancient cave paintings that impress in breathtaking clarity man’s deep desire to express himself.
Yesterday I went a little nuts reblogging the best of tha Lascaux Cave Art that is available on Tumblr. I think we need to share the public domain to make sure it doesn’t disappear.
Please note: the photographs Mr. Morse took of the Beatles would still be very much under todays’s ridiculously long copyright terms, even though that incarnation of Life Magazine went bankrupt and half of the Beatles are dead.
It doesn’t get any more “public domain” than 17,000+ year old art, which is why all my reblogs of photographs from the Lascaux Caves are tagged #Public Domain …
At least the Lascaux paintings are themselves in the public domain.
Of course, since the caves have been closed to the public — to preserve the content — I can’t simply wander in and snap my own shot.
And although it is reasonable to believe that the faithful reproduction — simply a direct copy — of original artwork that has passed into the public domain should itself be considered a mechanical copy [and therefore not derivative art deserving of its own copyright], that premise has yet to be legally tested; so the photographer could presumably assert copyright, and we would only find out after the expensive exercise of fighting it out in the courts.
I prefer to think the Lascaux Cave art isn’t being preserved for the exclusive benefit of a few lucky copyright holders, but rather that this important part of our shared cultural history is being preserved for all of humanity, now and for the future.
This was the first public library I went to as a child.
The street address is 40 Albert Street, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
[ I decided it was safer to leave off the postal code, since Canada Post has insanely chosen to assert copyright ownership over Canadian postal codes, so I’m boycotting postal codes at present.]
The majority of those Canadians who took my unscientific poll understand (or think they understand) what DRM is.
Yet very few taking my poll had any idea what TPMs are…
Canada will shortly have new copyright law, so Canadians need to find out about this stuff *before* inadvertently becoming criminals … C-11 ~ What *are* TPMs anyway?