Aaron Swartz was a zealous young advocate for the free exchange of information and creative content online. He committed suicide in 2013 after being indicted by the government for illegally downloading millions of academic articles from a nonprofit online database. From the age of fifteen, when Swartz, a computer prodigy, worked with Lawrence Lessig to launch Creative Commons, to his years as a fighter for copyright reform and open information, to his work leading the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), to his posthumous status as a cultural icon, Swartz's life was inextricably connected to the free culture movement. Now Justin Peters examines Swartz's life in the context of 200 years of struggle over the control of information.
In vivid, accessible prose, The Idealist situates Swartz in the context of other "data moralists" past and present, from lexicographer Noah Webster to ebook pioneer Michael Hart to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the process, the book explores the history of copyright statutes and the public domain; examines archivists' ongoing quest to build the "library of the future"; and charts the rise of open access, copyleft, and other ideologies that have come to challenge protectionist IP policies. Peters also breaks down the government's case against Swartz and explains how we reached the point where federally funded academic research came to be considered private property, and downloading that material in bulk came to be considered a federal crime.
The Idealist is an important investigation of the fate of the digital commons in an increasingly corporatized Internet, and an essential look at the impact of the free culture movement on our daily lives and on generations to come.
- ISBN-13: 9781476767727
- ISBN-10: 1476767726
- Publisher: Scribner Book Company
- Publish Date: January 2016
- Page Count: 352
- Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-11-09
- Reviewer: Staff
Slate correspondent Peters expands on his 2013 article profiling the late hacktivist and Internet personality Aaron Swartz (19862013), using this book to explore the constant struggle between control and liberation of the flow of information. He traces the creation and evolution of copyright law from the 18th century into the present, looking at both those who championed the cause and those who fought against it. As the thread reaches the modern day with the development of the Internet, the rise of electronic documents, and the creation of Project Gutenberg (a repository for public-domain text files), Peters transitions into the tragic story of Swartz. The talented young activists obsession with freeing information led him to download vast numbers of academic articles, a crusade ultimately leading to his arrest, prosecution, and suicide. This narrative introduction to the story of free culture in America presents a thought-provoking discussion on the roles of copyright, digital piracy, and emerging technology. As Peters shows by juxtaposing Swartzs story with that of information control in general, Information wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free. Today... paradox seems more relevant and more frustrating than ever. Agent: Todd Shuster, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency. (Jan.)