Learning From Aaron Swartz: Content Must Not Be The End Game For Knowledge

from the serious-stuff dept

In the wake of the suicide of Aaron Swartz, there have been many fine tributes to the man and his work. Another growing class of posts that have flowed from this unhappy event are people reflecting on the important lessons he taught them. Here, for instance, is Jeff Jarvis recounting his journey from a fairly traditional position on copyright to one that recognized how the Internet had reshaped that landscape.

Ten years ago, Jarvis appended this "mock copyright notice" to his blog posts:

It's mine, I tell you, mine! All mine! You can't have it because it's mine! You can read it (please); you can quote it (thanks); but I still own it because its mine! I own it and you don't. Nya-nya-nya. So there. COPYRIGHT ... by Jeff Jarvis.
But gradually, under the influence of key thinkers in this area, he came to see things differently:
Lessig and company have taught me that content's value can lie in what it spawns and inspires. Locked away, unseen, unused, not discussed, not linked, it might as well not exist.


And Aaron Swartz has taught me that content must not be the end game for knowledge. Why does knowledge become an article in a journal -- or that which fills a book or a publication -- except for people to use it? And only when they use it does content become the tool it should be. Not using knowledge is an offense to it. If it cannot fly free beyond the confines of content, knowledge cannot reach its full value through collaboration, correction, inspiration, and use.
The tension between knowledge and content is no mere abstraction. As well as lying behind some of the most problematic sections of SOPA, ACTA and TPP, and the larger war on digital sharing they are part of, it was almost certainly a contributory factor in the death of Aaron Swartz too.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: aaron swartz, acta, content, sopa, tpp

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    erichwwk, 17 Jan 2013 @ 6:35am

    Who was stealing from whom?

    "‎"The law locks up the man or woman who steals the goose from the commons, but lets the greater villain loose that steals the commons from the goose"


    also try Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daley on most wealth (esp knowledge) as common property


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.