Week 6: Creative Commons and Copyright

Well, after much debate and agonizing over different licenses I’ve chosen the happy-go-lucky Free for Cultural Works creative commons license. This allows all of my avid viewers to remix, reuse, and even make money off of all that I post, just so long as they attribute my work to me. I, therefore, can be a muse to all who read my blog. Thanks to the tiny bar graph that depicts my viewership, I don’t think I’ll be influencing too many folks. That’s really why I chose this setting. I honestly do not think that any of my things here are in danger of being a goldmine. If they were, copyright thieves would face the wrath of a creative commons license with a “$” and an “\” through it.

We spent a lot of time last week exploring the creation of JSTOR and other private databases, as well as the Aaron Swartz case. Personally I think all archives should be free for the public to use. Ancestry.com, JSTOR, Lexus Nexus, everything. It’s crazy to me that you have to pay more for these services than a subscription to a magazine, Netflix, or XBOX Live. Hell, USWeekly is $100 for a year subscription and that’s still less than a full access Ancestry.com world membership. I concede that my classmates are right and that these services are used FAR less than popular streaming sites and that someone has to pay for digitization and servers. I just feel like part of the digital age should be free access to everything that’s out there. There isn’t a place in a public library that’s off limits to patrons unless they pay a fee. I know Google Books is supported by a massive empire, I just wish they’d inspire other services to share the wealth.

The Aaron Swartz case makes me sad. Straight up, sad. Sad that an academic institution and the Federal Government would badger an individual to the point where they take their own life. I’m not saying Swartz was completely blameless, but according to most accounts he had not actually done anything nefarious with his cache of pdf files. Sure, he was cocky and was messing with equipment he shouldn’t have. It was just that the government was so avidly pursuing him because he had done something semi-illegal in the past, that he could do something criminal, and/or he signified a growing group of people they felt intimidated by. Most importantly they wanted to set an example. If it wasn’t Swartz it would have been and might still be anyone else they can grab. He was the first person they could get and they went after him as hard as they could, regardless of the particulars of the case.

Why do I think these were the motivations of the government?

Because I’ve seen it before. I grew up in a pretty small town, worked at an antique store and befriended a great person who also did scrimshaw. Apparently, they purchased a piece of ivory on eBay and as a result was targeted by the US government as an example of protected animal smuggling. They tried to send him to Federal Prison for a few decades and fine him almost a quarter of a million dollars. They billed him to the press as an evil internet super genius behind an international smuggling ring. Yesterday this person could not figure out how to send me a photo of his new puppy he took on his phone. Yep. Super genius. Still haven’t seen what this dog looks like.

The case was re-tried, he did have to spend time in jail (on the weekends though and not in a federal pen) and pay a large fine. He did make a mistake, but it wasn’t for what they charged him for and it could’ve happened to anyone. They honestly wanted anyone. The government was ruthless in their pursuit and it has had long lasting effects: it cost him his life-savings, reputation, job, and marriage. I can easily see how merciless prosecutors desperate to create an example, would push someone to take their own life. I don’t like that JSTOR charges for the ability to access their databases, but I don’t think the right way of getting freer access is what Swartz was thought to be doing. In time hopefully we can have better access to journal articles and primary sources in the way we can now watch episodes of Dr. Who and Poldark.

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