Honor Aaron Swartz with Open Access

Post edited most recently on May 7, 2013

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“While questions remain about how to pay for it all . . . many agree with Swartz’s belief that the information should be open.”
Paraphrase of statement by Steve Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, from “Aaron Swartz’s Suicide Puts Internet Openness in Spotlight,” by John Keilman and Sally Ho, Chicago Tribune, January 15, 2013

I don’t know about “should,” but I think it would benefit us all if more information was shared.  And I don’t believe the “how to pay for it” issue need be an insurmountable barrier.

I am so grateful to Aaron Swartz for his work in this area, and so saddened about his passing.

Swartz was an internet innovator and tireless advocate for open access information.  He reportedly committed suicide, overwhelmed by depression and concerns about the criminal prosecution he faced.  His prosecution was related to his efforts to get protected academic journal articles to the masses.  It might have resulted in a felony conviction and decades of imprisonment.

In the aftermath of Swartz’s death, many have called for legal system reforms.  And I fervently hope such reform takes place.

Many have also called for more open access information.

To that end numerous academics have given open access to their academic articles, in Swartz’s honor.  I hope that more academics take up the cause, and do whatever each of them can to exponentially grow the open access academic articles movement.

And I join the call for more open access information generally.  Just imagine how many more life-altering technologies could be created for everyone, if high-quality information was easily accessible to every potential innovator.  And this is just one of the potential benefits of more open access information.

But how do we get there?

And how do we answer the “questions . . . about how to pay for it all”?

My favorite idea is the creation of a Resource Based Economy (RBE).  Imagine a critical mass of people agreeing to share access to property, utilizing technology to create a high quality of life for all?  Imagine a money-free world, in which all the insecurity, crime, inefficiencies, and distractions related to money were eliminated.  Although it may sound counter-intuitive, evidence suggests that innovation could skyrocket, and everyone’s quality of life could increase dramatically.  For more details on this evidence, see my blog post “Why a ‘Sharing Law’ Practice?”

Meanwhile, let’s support and contribute to open access information as much as we legally can in our current economy.  For someone like me, this might mean just making my blog posts freely available for all to read.

How might you support and contribute to open access information, or its parallel: open source hardware and software?

As Clay Shirky explains, even in today’s stressed economy there is a great deal of “cognitive surplus” floating around.  What if you were to use yours to regularly blog, do free online radio shows,  or contribute to many of the many online open source hardware and software communities?

Because there are free ways to do all of these things now, the only cost need be some of your spare “cognitive surplus” time.  And what a fulfilling way to use that time, building community and working towards a world that could serve us all better.

Do it for yourself, do it for the future, do it for Aaron Swartz.

Tiffany Clark is an attorney working and living in Sacramento, CA, with her beloved husband, two sons, cat and dog.  You can find out more about Tiffany at www.tiffanyclarklaw.com.

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