the discussion this morning on up with chris hayes of the aaron swartz situation (featuring his fiercely articulate gf, lawrence lessig, and (sadly) a former administration official with her perfect hair and little canned speeches) was exemplary and clarifying. i will say this: i so wish this person was not dead. but also this: m.i.t. should commit suicide. they prosecuted swartz as an enactment of the fact that they hate and want to destroy every value they claim to represent; they are dedicated to the repression or the exclusive ownership by some elite of truth, or indeed to exempting certain kinds of academic research from the sort of free examination that is the essence of the scientific ideal of how alleged truths can be tested or established. it's...salafism. it's as though we found out that mlk was riding with the klan in the evenings, or that the pope was in fact a committed worshiper of beelzebub, or that the dalai lama was a school shooter. you have humiliated yourselves profoundly; show some pride and fall on your sword. it's not too late to make a significant contribution to human knowledge: put your campus to the wrecking ball.
The trial was due to begin next month. He faced 13 felony charges including computer and wire fraud. Prosecutors accused him of stealing millions of scientific journals from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the intent of making them freely available.
honestly, whatever the fam might think, i don't believe you can blame mit for his suicide. but the actions of mit could not possibly be more antithetical to the supposed purposes and values of mit: mit taking heroic measures to restrict access to scientific research is like the lutheran church taking extraordinary measures to repress the scriptures. right, mit hates the whole idea of science insofar as it is incompatible with $$$ for the corporate interests of which they are a client.
speaking of indiana jones and the turkey of doom and the era of copyright protection, the government of belize is apparently suing lucasfilm for using the 'likeness' of their national treasure, the crystal skull. or i'm not sure from that piece who is suing whom for what, precisely. but i do like the idea that governments own the likenesses of the 'national' treasures in the territory they claim to administer. oh you know you can't freely reproduce those pictures of the rockies or the new york city skyline or the great lakes or the declaration of independence. or my ass. just speculating now but any crystal skulls there may be are of non-ancient origin. but that is as nothing compared to this whole new world of intellectual property. well, you never should have started down this road of people owning the likenesses of themselves or others or works of art and so on because, just a bit further on than that, all representations - all images and pictures, for example, of any sort, also reflections, shadows, and footprints; in short, all likenesses - are potentially litigable. now on the other hand say you are, per impossibile, a proponent of intellectual property. why exactly can't persons or governments or corporations own things like that? is there any plane of reality that can't be colonized by imperialistic regimes or sold off in tracts? now this particular battle could be complicated, because no doubt lucasfilm has trademarked the adjective-noun pair 'crystal skull.' so if i were their squad of attorneys, i'd be preparing to counter-sue on the grounds that the government of belize and its representatives say, without permission, that the crystal skull is their national treasure.
i was down on the farm this weekend, arguing with my mom and my ex-wife (a professional writer) about intellectual property. so anyway, a few thoughts:
things like science, history, and philosophy are collaborative/argumentative arenas. that's how they make progress. did einstein own special relativity? did crick and watson claim ownership of the double helix model of human dna? if they had claimed and been able to enforce such ownership, that would have unutterably impoverished human knowledge. i have given theories of knowledge and beauty. i don't even understand what it would mean to own such a thing, to try to hoard it or sell it. if i'm right about what knowledge is, do i own knowledge?
and the arts are very much the same. what if you let fielding patent the novel or petrarch the sonnet or kandinsky abstraction? well, why can't people own things like that, on an intellectual property model? who owns the twelve-bar structure of the blues, or the line "woke up this morning'? if louis armstrong takes buddy bolden's jazz and repeats it, then re-interprets it, then deconstructs it, is that theft? then there is no art that's not theft. if someone claimed to own things like this, they would be claiming the right to cut off a century-long history of amazing art, a whole portion of a culture (or really of all the world's cultures). could 'clueless' be a violation of jane austen's copyright? what if shakespeare's ghost or heirs were around, filing suit every time someone re-made or re-interpreted hamlet or a comedy of errors? all this stuff takes place within an unfolding history of appropriations and re-interpretations, and did way before there was such thing as cut-and-paste or digital sampling.
theories and texts and musical forms are not only things that cannot be owned, they're things that should not be owned. if someone explores my theory of beauty, i think it is an ethical principle, and a code of my guild, that they should attribute it to me if they can. if they want to know how it first came about, they should read my book and they should try to get it right. but if i assert that i own the idea or the text 'beauty is the object of longing' and that you have to pay me to use it, i'm just trippin.