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Senior Editor

Pub Talk

By James Sturdivant

About James

 

Media Vent

Bob Sacks
Stats on Magazine Launches Are Irrelevant & Misleading
Jul 2, 2015

My friend Samir Husni has penned a short essay and complaint about "numbers" used in our industry for purposes of...



Marketing Services Lab

The Marketing Services Lab
3 Ways To Tell The Content Marketing Boom Spells Revenue Growth for Publishers
Jun 30, 2015

Last week Publishing Executive announced the launch of the Publishing & Media Labthat we will host at the 2015 Content Marketing World conference this...



Publishers' Dojo

Linda Ruth
Miniaturize & Simplify, Solutions to Publishers' Mobile Problem
Jun 15, 2015

As many publishers have found, providing a magazine experience on a mobile app and getting people to engage with it...



B2B Beat

Andy Kowl
Content is Money
Jun 12, 2015

Most of the publishing world says Content is King. The publishers at SIPA say Content is Money. The annual conference...



Industry Insiders

The Insiders
Apple Throws Publishers Another Curve Ball
Jun 9, 2015

The relationship between Apple and the magazine publishing industry has been acrimonious since the launch of the iPad in 2010...



The Digital Market

Thea Selby
4 Takeaways from the New Apple App Analytics
May 26, 2015

One of the lesser-known facts about magazine apps is that publishers can glean very little information about them and how...



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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