Fighting Back Against the “Intellectual Property” Racket

Aaron Swartz protesting SOPA. (Demand Progress)

January 13, 2013 (LocalOrg/Tony Cartalucci) – In your standard dictatorship, activists are brought out back and shot.

In the United States’ crypto-dictatorship, activists are bullied by the
state until they go bankrupt, are buried under a mountain of legal woes,
are publicly discredited or humiliated, or as in the case of activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, made to crack under the constant pressure, and commit suicide.

While superficially the United States may seem more progressive, a dead
activist bullied to death for his political views, is a dead activist –
whether it was a bullet in the back of the head by SS officers, or a
mountain of litigation dumped upon someone by the US Department of

We are All Aaron Swartz.

Swartz was an active opponent of the media industry’s various assaults on Internet freedom and sharing, including the scandalous SOPA/PIPA and ACTA bills. He was the director of Demand Progress, which pursued the following campaigns:

1. Congress Wants To Make Streaming A Felony

The big business lobbyists who are behind the
Internet Blacklist Bill are already making the sequel. The “Ten Strikes”
bill would make it a felony to stream copyrighted content — like music
in the background of a Youtube video, movies and TV shows — more than
ten times.

Click here to read the text of the bill and voice your opposition.

2. Oppose Protect-IP

We knew that members of Congress and their
business allies were gearing up to pass a revised Internet Blacklist
Bill — which more than 325,000 Demand Progress members helped block last
winter — but we never expected it to be this atrocious. Last year’s
bill has been renamed the “PROTECT IP” Act and it is far worse than its

The new PROTECT-IP Act retains the censorship components from COICA,
but adds a new one: It bans people from having serious conversations
about the blacklisted sites. Under the new bill, anyone “referring or
linking” to a blacklisted site is prohibited from doing so and can be
served with a blacklist order forcing them to stop.

More than 50,000 Demand Progress members have already signed our petition opposing the bill, and you can join them here.

3. Bin Laden Is Dead. Will The Patriot Act Live On?

The Patriot Act was enacted as a supposedly
temporary measure in the wake of 9-11. With Bin Laden’s passing, the era
of the Patriot Act, of spying on Americans who aren’t suspected of
crimes, of heavy-handed abuse of our dearly held civil liberties, must
come to an end.

We need to act now to make sure we win this fight. Tens of thousands
of Demand Progress members have already urged Congress to fix the
Patriot Act. Will you ask Congress and the President to return us to the
legal norms that existed before 9-11 and start respecting our civil

Click here to read more and sign the petition.

4. Tell Facebook: Stop Censoring Political Speech

A range of Facebook users, from political
dissidents to technology bloggers, are reporting the sudden blocking of
their pages. Facebook provided no prior warning, nor was there a clear
process established to restore access to the blocked pages.

Will you fight back?

The best way to get Facebook’s attention is to make the story go viral on their own site.

5. Tell The DOJ: Investigate Goldman Sachs

Investigators discovered that Goldman traders
bragged about selling “shitty” deals to clients and the mega-bank bet
against the same financial products it was selling to investors. And
they’ve lied about it all the way to the bank.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and small-time homeowners
are in jail for mortgage fraud, but no CEOs have been prosecuted for
their roles in the financial crisis. It’s time to change that.

Senator Levin’s call for accountability by urging the Department of
Justice to investigate Goldman Sachs and its CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Sign
our petition and we’ll deliver this message above to the DOJ.

6. Tell Your Lawmakers: Shut Down The New Debtors’ Prisons

Americans are in more debt than ever before,
and the banks are going to new extremes to squeeze us for every last
penny: If you can’t pay up, they’ll try to get you locked up.

Read more here and add your name. We’ll automatically send an email to your state legislators.

7. Could the Government Really Shut Down Facebook?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and
the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are out of control. They’ve
been seizing domain names without due process: they shut down 84,000
sites by accident last month, arrested a man for linking to other
websites, and government officials think ICE and DHS are claiming powers
that would even threaten sites like Facebook.

Watch our video — then sign our petition.

8. Fight Internet ‘Kill Switch’

Are our leaders better than Egypt’s? Across the
globe, governments know that the Internet is increasingly the lifeblood
of democracy — that’s why Egypt’s oppressive regime just shut down the
Internet there.

But even as American politicians condemn Egypt for doing so, they’re
pushing legislation to give our government the power to do the exact
same thing here at home! The so-called ‘Kill Switch’ would let the
president turn off our Internet — without a court even having to approve
the decision.

Join over 40,000 in fighting it. Add your name!

9. Let the PATRIOT Act Expire

The most noxious parts of the USA PATRIOT Act
are about to expire — but Congress wants to extend them again. These
provisions let the government spy on people without naming them in a
warrant, and secretly access your library and bank records under a gag
order prohibiting anyone from letting you know.

Join over 60,000 in opposing extension. Add your name!

10. No Mandatory Internet IDs!

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke just announced
that he’s developing virtual ID cards for Internet users — and they
could pose a severe threat to our privacy! The program’s called the
“National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” and the draft
proposal indicates that we’d be forced to use the IDs for any online
transactions with the government, and for online interactions with
businesses that use them.

Over 30,000 have told Gary Locke to back off. Add your name!

11. Protect Whistleblowers at Big Banks

Crimes committed by the big banks helped crash
our economy — and WikiLeaks is saying that a whistle-blower has sent
them enough evidence to take down Bank of America. So now the big banks
are fighting back by trying to get the government to muzzle future

Tell the SEC not to listen to them. Add your name!

12. Don’t Let them Outlaw WikiLeaks!

Politicians are leading the charge to outlaw
WikiLeaks and undermine freedom of the press. First Sen. Joe Lieberman
(I-CT) successfully pressured to stop hosting the WikiLeaks
website and now, as Julian Assange has been arrested in the UK, he’s
introduced a new bill changing the law to make WikiLeaks illegal.

More than 30,000 have signed our petition to stop him. Add your name!

13. Stop the TSA’s Nude Scanners!

Across the country, TSA is replacing airport
metal detectors with scanners that take nude photos of you — violating
your rights, zapping you with X-rays that could cause cancer, and
slowing down the lines. And if you opt-out, they feel up your “sensitive

Lawmakers in New Jersey and Idaho are trying to stop them. Let’s get a similar bill introduced in every state! Contact your lawmaker!

14. Stop the Internet Blacklist!

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and
the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are out of control. They’ve
been seizing domain names without due process: they shut down 84,000
sites by accident last month, arrested a man for linking to other
websites, and government officials think ICE and DHS are claiming powers
that would even threaten sites like Facebook.

Over 300,000 signers! Add your name!

PLUS: Download our new flyer for our Stop The Internet Blacklist campaign and start a grassroots movement in your area!

Clearly, Demand Progress is not just another faux-NGO working in tandem
with special interests under the guise of “human rights,” “freedom,” and
“democracy” to peddle further exploitation and expansion of the powers that be
– but rather identified these special interests by name, and exposed
both their agenda and the means by which they attempt to achieve it.
Swartz’ death is a tragic one, and compounded by the dismissive, almost
celebratory atmosphere across the corporate-media of the passing of a
man they labeled a suspected criminal.

Swartz was targeted b the US Department of Justice, MIT, and their
corporate-financier sponsors because he was a prominent and particularly
effective voice against real creeping oppression. He was a pragmatic,
technical individual and proposed solutions that short-circuited the
typical and ineffectual political infighting that drives most
disingenuous or misguided causes.We all stand the potential of being
targeted like Swartz if we allow these monopolies to continue dictating
the destiny of human progress. We are all Aaron Swartz – and must
realize his targeting and subsequent suicide is the manifestation of the
real danger these insidious monopolies pose to us.

Sharing is Not a Crime.

Technologically empowered openness and generosity across the
corporate-financier dominated Western World is no more a real offense
than was being Jewish inside Nazi Germany. But like Nazi Germany,
anything can be “outlawed” if it suits political and economic special
interest. Are we truly “criminals” for not respecting laws born of
special interests, detached from the will and best interests of the
people? No, we most certainly aren’t.

Swartz allegedly downloaded scholarly files from an open and unsecured academic archive (and here).
The original files are still very much intact and at the disposal of
the organization that maintains the archives. Nothing was stolen, yet
Swartz was accused of “theft,” facing 30 years in prison and a 1 million
dollar fine – this in a nation where rapists and murders can spend less
time in prison, and elected representatives involved in willfully
selling wars based on patently false pretenses walk free without even
the faintest prospect of facing justice.

Swartz’ crusade against the corporate-financier interests attempting to
monopolize and control communication and technology is surely why he was
targeted by the federal government, academia, and their
corporate-financier sponsors. It is no different than an activist being
brought out back of a kangaroo court in a third-world dictatorship, and
shot. The silence from so-called “human rights” advocates over the
treatment, and now death of Aaron Swartz is deafening – exposing them
yet again as another cog in the machine.

It is time to fight back – and time to fight back without the help of
these disingenuous NGOs and their purposefully futile tactics of solely
protesting and petitioning. Pragmatic, technical solutions must also be
explored and deployed at the grassroots to shatter these
corporate-financier monopolies at the very source of their power – that
is – our daily patronage and dependence on their goods and services.

The Plan. 

An alternative to the networks, media, services, and even hardware must
be devised and deployed across our local communities. Laws born of
special interests and flying in the face of the people’s best interests
must be exposed, condemned, and entirely ignored. Taking away a human
being’s freedom because they copied and shared a file is unconscionable –
as unconscionable as imprisoning a human being because of their
political, religious, or racial background. We would ignore laws imposed
upon our society singling out blacks or Jews, but not laws
criminalizing sharing solely for the benefit of corporate special

In December 2012’s “Decentralizing Telecom,”
a plan for establishing a second Internet, locally built and
maintained, and connected with neighboring networks to run parallel to
the existing Internet – but be free of large telecom monopolies – was

Also published in December of 2012, was “Sharing is Not a Crime: A Battle Plan to Fight Back,”
which illustrated the importance of shifting entirely away from
proprietary business models and instead, both using and producing open
source hardware, software, news, and entertainment. 

Establishing local, and eventually national and even international
parallel networks is possible, but will take time. Turning toward open
source software can begin today, with a visit to and exploring alternatives that are already being used by millions today.

A bridge between where we are now and a truly free Internet made by the
people, for the people, and entirely maintained in a decentralized,
local manner, is what are called “Pirate Boxes.” David Darts, an artist, designer, and coder, describes a Pirate Box as: 

PirateBox is a self-contained mobile communication and
file sharing device. Simply turn it on to transform any space into a
free and open communications and file sharing network. 

Share (and chat!) Freely Inspired by pirate radio and
the free culture movements, PirateBox utilizes Free, Libre and Open
Source software (FLOSS) to create mobile wireless communications and
file sharing networks where users can anonymously chat and share images,
video, audio, documents, and other digital content.

Private and Secure PirateBox is designed to be private
and secure. No logins are required and no user data is logged. Users
remain completely anonymous – the system is purposely not connected to
the Internet in order to subvert tracking and preserve user privacy.

Easy to Use Using the PirateBox is easy. Simply turn
it on and transform any space into a free communication and file sharing
network. Users within range of the device can join the PirateBox open
wireless network from any wifi-enabled device and begin chatting and
sharing files immediately.

Under David’s FAQ’s regarding Pirate Boxes, a particularly useful question is answered: 

Can I make my own PirateBox?

Absolutely! The PirateBox is registered under the GNU GPLv3.
You can run it on an existing device or can be built as a stand-alone
device for as little as US$35. For detailed instructions, visit the PirateBox DIY page.

For the media-industry to stop the spread of local hardware solutions
like Pirate Boxes, they would have to literally be in every single
community, inside every single person’s house, to prevent people from
taking legally purchased or freely available media, and sharing it –
akin to publishers policing the entire population to prevent readers
from lending their friends and family their copy of a particular book.

The basic principles and experience one gets from building and using a
Pirate Box can allow them to tackle larger mesh networks and eventually,
decentralize telecom.
By encouraging local meetings where PirateBoxes are used, the
foundation for new local organizations and institutions can be laid.

New Paradigms Require New Institutions – Join or Start a Hackerspace

Not everyone possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to create
local networks or develop alternatives to the goods and services we
currently depend on corporate-financier monopolies for. Even those that
do, cannot, by themselves, effectively research, develop, and deploy
such alternatives. By pooling our resources together in common spaces
called “hackerspaces,” we can. Hackerspaces are not just for technically
talented individuals, but a place where anyone with the inclination to
learn can come and participate.

Hackerspaces can be organized under a wide range of templates
– including clubs where dues are paid, spaces that earn income through
providing courses or services to the community, and many others. It will
be in hackerspaces, and local institutions like them, that a truly people-driven paradigm shift takes place – one of pragmatism and progress, not endlessly broken political promises from elected officials.

People can visit
to see the closest organization near them where they can join in.
Conversely, for those who either don’t have a hackerspace nearby to
join, or simply want to start their own, see, “How to Start a Hackerspace,” for more information on where to begin.


Aaron Swartz’ passing becomes even more tragic if we do not recognize
what he spent his life fighting for, and realize that no matter where we
think we stand on the issue of Internet freedom, the interests driving
the debate from Wall Street and Washington, do not have any of our best
interests in mind.

We are all Aaron Swartz – to reclaim the battle cry abused so flagrantly by the West’s faux-democratic “awakening” in the Arab World and beyond.
And we must all become active opponents of this agenda to usurp our
ability to determine our own destiny. Aaron Swartz was an exceptional
proponent of Internet freedom and openness – but by all of us joining
the ranks of this cause, we exponentially complicate the system’s
ability to target and destroy any one of us.  If your cause is just, and
your means constructive and pragmatic, there isn’t just “safety” in
numbers, there is invincibility.