Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rant: Aaron Swartz Didn't Have to Die

If this case isn't a travesty of justice, then nothing is. He was facing 35 years for downloading documents which were in the public domain and distributing them publicly. Uh, isn't that what public domain is?

But we live in a surreal world where the facts don't matter and the law is interpreted not by the Judicial branch, but by the mega-corporations who line the pockets of virtually every elected official, in plain sight no less. We live in a world where the meaning of the word "is" is open for debate.

Something is wrong where conflicts of interest like U.S. Customs publicly launching a campaign to censor web sites from Disney headquarters are openly flaunted. The special interests are so powerful, they aren't even trying to hide the fact that they are using our government to enforce their obsolete business model, which is based on artificial scarcity which technology has made impossible.

This story mirrors history pretty well, too. Ever heard of the Luddites? They really, really didn't like the machinery developed during the Industrial Revolution, which rendered their manual labor jobs obsolete. The problem here is that the Luddites are now responsible for making public policy decisions regarding technology.

Aaron Swartz would've faced less jail time if he ran over someone's child while drunk, all because the massive conflicts of interest we look the other way for are allowed to openly conflate terrorism with file sharing, which is patently absurd. Unfortunately, these simple facts are off of most people's radar ... hopefully until now.

Copyright reform officially has a martyr now. Aaron Swartz took one for the team. I sincerely hope that we as a society take a fresh look at IP reform, including patents. Otherwise he died for nothing, and I refuse to accept that.

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