When should information be public?

The events above happened on January 11th, but regardless of when they happened, I’m bummed to learn about stuff like this. On a base level, all we have are the facts in text, but it still doesn’t take away from the idea that there are certain self-proclaimed elite bodies of authority out there (government bodies, government-funded academic institutions, etc) that withhold certain information. I’m not talking about all information. If some information’s private because the author wants it to be his own, that’s fine, but there’s other information that no one can really claim – basically information that pertains to everyone. Intellectual property rights I can understand. If an author creates something, that information, as far as I’m concerned, is hers/his and he/she can do whatever they want with it (let others see it, or niggardly keep it hidden). But withholding information that no one has created, that’s just out there in the world for anyone to look at and absorb, is an act of greed, and part of a larger strategy to divide for the purpose of status. Stories like Aaron’s below reinforce the idea that information that is inherently public, should not be shackled and given only to those eyes who first claim power over it. It’s the bravery of people like Aaron (*sounds like a harmless act to me) that merit my commendation.

Tor/Forge Blog

Written by Cory Doctorow

On January 11, a young hacker, hacktivist and entrepreneur named Aaron Swartz took his own life. He was 26, and I had known him since he was 14. He was facing 50 years in prison. His crime was to walk into an unsecured computer closet at MIT, near the Harvard campus where he had a fellowship, and plug a laptop into the campus network, with which he proceeded to download a large amount of paywalled academic journal articles from JSTOR, an online repository of scholarly works. It is widely speculated that he planned on making these available for free, though it may be that no one will ever know what he really intended.

Here’s what we do know: Aaron didn’t care about the freedom of information. Aaron cared about the freedom of *people* to make use of information. When I met Aaron, he was already someone…

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