Let us learn from Aaron Swartz & Lawrence Lessig Part 1- Irish Politics

After intensively watching ‘The internet’s own boy’[1] and brusquely reading Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture[2] I started to observe that these two pieces as not just a true story of Aaron Swartz or Lessig’s rumination on free Culture, but once merged become connecting pieces of a jurisprudence puzzle. At first glance the Aaron Swartz  ‘The internet’s boy’ story plays out like a modern day Robin Hood  ‘Stealing form the rich to give to the poor’ However once I dived a little deeper it became more apparent this true story documentary wasn’t just presented to us like a Disney interpretation of Brother Grimm’s, it was a story of American injustice regarding Swartz, it was story of the liberation and protection of Open Access, digital dissemination and Lessig’s theory of Free Culture -‘Free Culture is about the troubles the internet causes even after the modem is turned off’.[3]   Throughout ‘The internet Boy’ we see Swartz’s mentor Lawrence Lessig.  Lawrence Lessig is an exceptional teacher and us the viewer are his students and like any inspirational teacher Lessig evokes us to ask why? What? Where? And When? In the book Free Culture, Lessig writes ‘A free culture has been our past, but it will only be our future if we change the path we are on right now’ Aaron Swartz was simply trying to change the path we were all skipping down. Swartz armed with his hacking superpower began his free culture revelation with the online world of Academic literature ‘JSTOR’ He began his revolutionary journey in a turbulent decade of cloudy Politics, fear of open access, digital dissemination, terror attacks and let us not forget the Federal Communications Commission inane use of military defence policies towards Cybercrime[4]. Unfortunately for Swartz he had not learnt the game of politics before he wondered down the path of the ‘free culture’ liberation.  Because of Swartz’s timing and sequence of actions It was inevitable that Swartz’s reactions towards his ethical question ‘How can you bring public access to the public domain.’[5] would be swamped in a bed of misinterpreted political hysteria. When I reflect on ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) saga I just think how powerful Swartz became when he eventually armed himself with political knowledge. Swartz shone a light and unearthed a deep-rooted problem within America’s Hyper- Partisan Government. Swartz shone that light on American congress and their voting on legal drafts before fully understanding or realising the consequence of that vote to all important subject – Americas land of the Free!

  ‘This bill … shut down whole websites. Essentially, it stopped Americans from communicating entirely with certain groups…. I called all my friends, and we stayed up all night setting up a website for this new group, Demand Progress, with an online petition opposing this noxious bill…. We [got] … 300,000 signers…. We met with the staff of members of Congress and pleaded with them…. And then it passed unanimously…. And then, suddenly, the process stopped. Senator Ron Wyden … put a hold on the bill.’ – Aaron Swartz explaining the SOPA Vote.[6]

 Once reading I asked myself, did Ireland just have a similar political problem with open access?  Did Ireland not go down a similar path regarding the Mother & Babies act[7]?  The acts differ in topic but the key subject is the same ‘access to information’ as Lessig said ‘’The law is changing that change is altering the way our culture gets made’’.[8]   Similarities rise again when you look on how Irish Politicians voted on this legal draft. Like Swartz’s America we to have politicians rushing in acts regarding ‘open access’ and we to have induvial government officials voting on legal drafts before reading the fine print! We to have governmental members who opted to follow their party’s leaders and not seeing the consequence of their actions[9]. Does this voting behaviour result with ethical values being left in the cold?  Swartz realised the power of the online communities it may have been too late for ‘JSTOR’ but luckily for all of us Swartz realised his new superpower in time to stop SOPA.  We now know that Lessig’s ‘’Common Sense revolts at the idea’’[10] can only come true when common sense is explained to the public from liberalistic hero’s like Swartz & Lessig.


Crowe, Catriona. ‘Mother and Baby Home Documents Should Not Be “Sealed”’. The Irish Times. Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/mother-and-baby-home-documents-should-not-be-sealed-1.4384174.

Drutman, Lee. ‘America Is Now the Divided Republic the Framers Feared’. The Atlantic, 2 January 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/01/two-party-system-broke-constitution/604213/.

Lessig, Lawrence. ‘Free Culture’. In Presentation at the OSCON 2002 Conference. Available: Http://Randomfoo. Net/Oscon/2002/Lessig, 2008.

‘List of Members of the U.S. Congress Who Support or Oppose SOPA/PIPA’. In Wikipedia, 16 April 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_Members_of_the_U.S._Congress_who_support_or_oppose_SOPA/PIPA&oldid=951377981.

moviemaniacsDE. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz | Full Movie (2014), 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vz06QO3UkQ&feature=youtu.be.

‘Politics of the Republic of Ireland’. In Wikipedia, 28 October 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Politics_of_the_Republic_of_Ireland&oldid=985949926.

[1] moviemaniacsDE, The Internet’s Own Boy.

[2] Lessig, ‘Free Culture’.

[3] Lessig.

[4] Drutman, ‘America Is Now the Divided Republic the Framers Feared’.

[5] moviemaniacsDE, The Internet’s Own Boy.

[6] ‘List of Members of the U.S. Congress Who Support or Oppose SOPA/PIPA’.

[7] Crowe, ‘Mother and Baby Home Documents Should Not Be “Sealed”’.

[8] Lessig, ‘Free Culture’.

[9] ‘Politics of the Republic of Ireland’.

[10] Lessig, ‘Free Culture’.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *