Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. – United States attorney Carmen M. Ortiz

Mr. Swartz is uncompromising, principled, smart, flawed, loving, caring, and brilliant. – Cory Doctorow, a science fiction author and online activist, in a tribute to Aaron Swartz on

Why is it that some very brilliant people think that everything that could be called ‘intellectual property’ should be free? I can’t go into Barney’s New York and walk out with a new pair of shoes. I have to pay for them. I can’t go to the Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness, California and order up some delicious fresh oysters and accompanying wine, polish it all off and get up and say Thanks. That was _delicious! I have to pay for it AND leave a tip.

I have to pay for the computer I’m typing these words on. And PhotoShop (and a dozen other expensive apps I use). I had to pay to see Zero Dark Thirty yesterday. I have to pay for the B&B I’m staying in. And my house. And my car. And plane tickets, hair cuts, flowers, jewelry, massages, Pilates classes, renting a plane. You get my drift.

But these things are tangible property. Does the insistence of payment stop utterly when it comes to intellectual property – to information, content, data, stats, articles, songs, lyrics, teachings, writings, created by other people? Should it all be free for the taking, reading, reporting, sharing, disseminating, or…hacking?

Is it a philosophy born of I Can Make Everything Free, Therefore I Will? Sadly, this brilliant and flawed young man’s hacking escapades ended in his untimely death. He offered much and had much more to offer. Where do we go from here? Change the laws? Or change our notions of what should be free?

P.S.  On Wednesday JSTOR announced that it would open its archives for 1,200 journals to free reading by the public on a limited basis.

#hackinglaw   #hacking   #aaronswartz