In the latest example of blatant intellectual property abuse, self-proclaimed “hacker” Aaron Swartz has uploaded the entirety of the bestselling book Free Culture to the Internet and encouraged everyone to modify, respond, and annotate it using the technology known as a “Wiki”.

The book, which retails for $30, was the product of years of research by author Lawrence Lessig, who expected to retire and purchase a large mansion with the royalties he received from its sales. But industry experts say that dreams has been all but destroyed by Mr. Swartz.

“Why would anyone buy a book to tear apart when they can defile it online for free?” said former RIAA head Hillary Rosen. “It goes against all of our American values to let an author’s creation be destroyed by that.” Rosen cut our interview short, saying she had to go record a cover of Come Together.

Technology expert Clay Shirky said he believed this was the first time the full text of a book had been placed in a wiki like this. “The pirates have really hit a new low. I can’t think of anything worse. Except maybe micropayments. I predict that in 3-6 months book sales will be all but a relic, I will be penniless, and I will die. The country will mourn the loss of a great thought leader” Shirky added before we cut him off.

Lessig himself was unavailable for comment at press time (although quiet sobs were heard coming from his office). But his spokeswoman, Shelley Powers, denounced the wiki, the book, Creative Commons, TypeKey, and the USA PATRIOT Act in the strongest possible terms.

For his part, Aaron claims the site is entirely legal, noting that Lessig released the text of the book under a so-called Creative Commons license. But legal expert Darl McBride said that the Creative Commons license was a sham, and if not a sham then a copyright infringement, and if not a copyright infringement then unconstitutional, and if not unconstitutional then very, very, dangerous.

The wiki, where you can join in on the destruction, is available at

posted March 30, 2004 04:01 PM (Technology) (3 comments) #


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posted by Keith Gaughan at March 31, 2004 05:41 AM #


Aaron, you just made my day. Thank you

posted by Meri at March 31, 2004 01:04 PM #

I especially love how the authoritarian powers that be use the words “American values” when they are really meaning, “American stigmas”.

Do they not realize the difference between a work that originates from one person vs. a work that is the public evolution of the manifestation of this work??

The way I look at it, the wiki version of Lessig’s book can only make the original MORE valuable considering the accumulated promotion that the wiki version will create as it evolves into public ally managed knowledge.

posted by Matias at March 31, 2004 10:51 PM #

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