Before we get into this topic, a very obvious and upsetting thing has to be acknowledged: the recent suicide of Aaron Swartz, the free culture activist who was facing prison time for his place in pushing for a free internet. For those of us who supported the movement, this has been a terrible blow. More than can be put into a mere paragraph of text. RIP Aaron. That being said, the movement for free culture, both on the web and off of it, has not died along with its fallen champion. Many still push for it, and the phenomenon will continue to grow as it has been. Perhaps with even greater force now than it ever has before, as the need for changes become all the more apparent.

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For those who don’t know much about free culture, and about open sharing information and content in general, I would direct you to the many works of Lawrence Lessig, and to his book Free Culture in particular. As is fitting for the topic, his work is absolutely free to read and use. It covers a multitude of topics from the need to ease the restrictions of copyright, to the rights of the public to engage in cultural education in an entirely open manner. His blog is also an excellent resource for more on this subject.

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Education is the right of every human being on earth, and yet it is repeatedly treated as a privilege or secondary concern. In many Middle Eastern countries girls are unable to attend school, or are demonized or punished for trying to do so. Within the UK, the debate of educational standards rages on as government officials call for pushing trades on students and limiting the number of those who move on to actual universities. In the US, the cost of college is becoming so high that even the rich will be unable to afford it before long.

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I mention all of this because it shows a mentality about the sharing of information and content. We are actively stingy with our education, so is it any wonder we live in a society that pushes against the idea of information, content or programs being shared without a profit factor being involved? Where laws are constantly being introduced that would restrict the ability for creators to offer their own work online for free without putting those who use it at risk? When we have the fastest growing social network (Pinterest) that is based entirely on sharing images and videos, and yet the terms and conditions specify that the user is under constant threat of lawsuit they will be responsible for on behalf of the website?

What kind of a world do we live in when someone can get a heavier prison sentence for downloading a movie than for raping or otherwise assaulting a fellow human being? These are all provocative questions, I realized, and touched with a certain amount of sensationalism. Yet, they express the reasons (or some of them) behind the free culture phenomenon that has taken over the Internet in recent years.


Some might accuse me of radicalism in the way I present my argument. But I would counter that this shows clearly what kind of a profit-driven society we have become. Information is for monetary gain, and the political motives behind free culture often take a backseat to authorities claiming the need to protect those profits. How else can you explain the thirteen felonies Adam Swartz was facing, and the potential 50+ years in prison that led to the 26-year-old taking his life? If anything, I am not radical enough.

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