Techdirt Reading List: The Idealist: Aaron Swartz And The Rise Of Free Culture On The Internet

from the free-culture-matters dept

We're back again with another in our weekly reading list posts of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also helps support Techdirt.


Two weeks ago, our book of choice was a collection of Aaron Swartz's writings. And this week, it's a new book by Justin Peters not only about Swartz, but also about the rise of free culture online, putting Swartz's ideas and actions into context, called The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet. I have to admit that I had no idea this book had even come out until I heard a wonderful interview with Peters over on On the Media (and, for what it's worth, in a separate podcast, OTM's Brooke Gladstone said that the interview was so good that they struggled to figure out how to edit it down -- so I wonder if they'll release an even longer version as a "podcast extra.")

After that interview, I picked up a copy of the book and have only just started it, but am impressed already. By not just focusing on Swartz, but the wider context of copyright law and information policy over the years, it makes Swartz's focus much more understandable. I've found that, in talking about Swartz with people who aren't familiar with internet and open information culture, that they don't understand why Swartz would focus on what he did. But when put into the much broader context, it becomes much more understandable. For folks who are already knowledgeable about this world, it's still an interesting overview, potentially capturing parts that you weren't aware of, or putting other aspects into context as well. For folks with little deeper knowledge of the background of the open culture movement, it's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the details.

Filed Under: aaron swartz, copyright, copyright policy, free culture, internet culture, justin peters


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jan 2016 @ 1:24pm

    Maybe if netflix....

    created a series on this it would get more traction.

    If you don't handle holds the simpletons and tell them an entertaining story they won't get it. Or be interested long enough to get to the meat!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Hans, 21 Jan 2016 @ 6:24pm

      Re: Maybe if netflix....

      Doubtful. Plenty of movies have been made showing the cynical corruption of the US government, and they haven't created much "traction".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        HegemonicDistortion (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 3:29am

        Re: Re: Maybe if netflix....

        People just don't want to know. Hell, I even get tired of knowing sometimes. After a while things start looking bleak.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    HegemonicDistortion (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 8:24am

    OTM podcast needs clarity

    Note that the intro of OnTheMedia Podcast says that"Aaron] had been indicted on federal charges after illegally downloading 4.8 million articles from JSTOR"

    This is wrong. Swartz was using MIT's network, which had a license from JSTOR for the whole MIT campus, regardless of whether a user is a guest or MIT member. His access was thus authorized, though the prick US Attorney twisted the CFAA to try to say it was "illegal."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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