JOHO: Messages from the Dark

At “JOHO the Blog,” David Weinberger has a simple and very cool summary of the meaning of yesterday’s SOPA-induced blackout. “This is our Internet. We built it. We built it for us, not for you. We get to turn off the lights, not you.” Yes, indeed. It took a long time for the the Internet to smell like money to those folks who like that smell more than they like the smell of creativity, innovation, fellowship, commons, etc. Now it’s a platform for all media in digital formats that are easily replicated, therefore distribution is hard to control. Much of what flows across the Internet is freely shared by its creators, and there’s also channels for media that people pay for (like Netflix). A system that facilitates all that sharing, along with a high degree of interactivity, also makes it easy to do the natural sort of sharing that peopel will inherently do. Content providers could spend less time figuring out how to stop sharing, and more time figuring out how to build a business model that works in a social/sharing environment.  People who invest time and money in media creation and production have a right to charge for it, but we need to rethink how that works in the 21st century networked world.

The case against Aaron Swartz

Max Kennerly has posted the best legal overview I’ve seen of the Aaron Swartz indictment. He analyzes whether there’s actually a case to be made, and finds many weaknesses in the indictment, concluding that “the whole case looks like the iPhone prototype saga again: a civil claim that some overly aggressive prosecutor is trying to dress up as a federal crime. JSTOR has more than adequate civil remedies for whatever transpired here.” The worse problem: “This prosecution will give every “hacker” — and I use that term in a complimentary fashion, like the UNIX hackers of old, the people who built the Internet and its tools through creativity and determination — pause before they do anything outside of a bona fide API. The chilling effects will make us all worse off.” So this relates to the ongoing question whether we can sustain the free and open character of the Internet as monied interests come increasingly into play.