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Senior Editor

Pub Talk

By James Sturdivant

About James

 

Publishers' Dojo

Linda Ruth
Classic Print Business Models Influence Convergent Media: CNOW.tv Adopts a Magazine Subscription Model
Apr 18, 2014

Like everyone else in our business, I get drawn in to the ongoing conversation about this dying and that dying....



Publisher's Paradox

Andrew Davis
Publisher's Paradox: Leveraging Email to Inspire Action
Apr 7, 2014

Instead of sending your audience passive content, send your audience something they can take action on. If you read last...



Media Vent

Bob Sacks
It's Not All Good News for Magazine Publishers
Apr 1, 2014

Sometimes I just have to put the tequila aside and deliver a sobering report to the industry to offset some...



Industry Insiders

The Insiders
Publishers: Take a Lesson from the Louvre
Mar 21, 2014

Today, few premium publishers can compete with the rest of the Internet. But being the most trusted source of news and...



B2B Beat

Andy Kowl
What Bloggers Can Teach B2B
Jan 23, 2014

Blogs were pronounced dead in Fast Company in December of 2012 and in New Republic in April of 2013. And just before the New...



The Digital Market

Thea Selby
A Critique Of Yahoo's Digital Magazine Strategy
Jan 14, 2014

Small Business Trends writer Shawn Hessinger and I have a completely different view of the news that Yahoo was starting...



Profit from Publishing!

Thaddeus B. Kubis
Media Conference Exhibitors Should Go Deeper to Engage
Oct 9, 2013

It has been a few weeks since I attended (as the guest of the event organizer) the Publishing Business Conference...



Death of Aaron Swartz Underscores Need for Reforms He Championed

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Much is being said about the suicide of Internet pioneer Aaron Swartz, to which I can add little except that it was a tragic end to a brilliant, troubled life. Whatever combination of factors led Swartz to take his own life, it's clear his death will serve as a grim indictment of the very legal structure he sought to upend—a system designed around older notions of copyright control and enforcement.

"There's a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the Internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands," Swartz said last year, after helping to stop SOPA. He saw these "traditional things"—outmoded applications of concepts like copyright, DRM, licensing and fair use—as nothing less than a threat to freedom. Though sometimes taking his "hacktivist" work to controversial extremes, Swartz's actions helped define what's at stake in the effort to preserve and enhance the critical role of information in our culture even as traditional media companies struggle with radically new business models.

While the rights of content creators and copyright holders are obviously important, it is unhelpful to compare ripping a CD to ripping off a bank, or file downloads to home burglary. Pirating movies is frequently compared (by the movie industry) to stealing a car. This ignores the fact that creative works are never just commodities, and that demand for artistic and scientific ideas can be harnessed for profit in ways that acknowledge and respect the borderless nature of the Internet—working to leverage social sharing for marketing and e-commerce purposes, for instance.

Media entities really have no choice, as each attempt to strong-arm users only leads to embarrassment, or worse. Consider the music industry's MP3 wars, or the bruising battles over DRM. Already, in the wake of Swartz's death, influential bloggers are calling for scholars to associate themselves with open-access journals only. This is certainly not what JSTOR (the database hacked by Swartz) wants to see happen.

Swartz was never as extreme as some tried to paint him. He never said regulation shouldn't exist; he simply understood that new ways of creating, storing and distributing information require a different sort of regulatory scheme. As one of the developers of Creative Commons, he sought new, positive ways to allow for flexibility in the digital sphere.

One thing seems clear: again and again, old laws and existing interpretations prove themselves ham-fisted in the face of the current realities of information access. In the end, Swartz's life and death proved this to be only too correct.
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