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Harvey Weinstein speaks during a panel discussion after a screeing of the documentary "Bully" at MPAA in Washington, DC. The producer has become an outspoken critic of the "Open Internet," calling it "stealing."
In the ongoing battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley over the future of entertainment, two major events - one tragic, the other, comical - have defined the last few weeks.
The tragedy was the apparent suicide of "Open Internet" activist Aaron Swartz. It provoked an outpouring of support for Swartz's at-times radical vision and returned the debate about whether online content should roam free of copyrigh to the national agenda.
The comedy was Kim Dotcom, whose Megaupload site was shut down by the U.S. government last year on the grounds that it was enabling Internet content piracy. Dotcom (not his real name) rolled out a new site last weekend, from the relative safety of New Zealand. He isn't even messing around with the "upload" part any more; the new site is simply called "Mega."
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Former U.S. Sen. and new Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd. When online piracy legislation came up for a vote in Congress in 2012, he found himself up against open the late open Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Aaron Swartz — a prodigy, an outspoken political and technology activist, co-founder of Reddit, co-creator of RSS, and a central figure in the open Internet movement — was found dead in Brooklyn last weekend, of an apparent suicide. He was 26 and nearing a court appearance for hacking into an MIT database of academic papers to symbolically liberate the information.
There's already an outpouring of grief among Swartz's former partner, the technorati, and the high-tech venture capital world. There has also been considerable speculation that Swartz, who suffered from depression, was driven to kill himself by a government that didn't at all like his accrued power or point of view. At least one blogger has also suggested a more nefarious explanation for Swartz's demise.
Swartz was something of a techno-anarchist, taking his activism to an place that even garden variety Silicon Valley libertarians have been hesitant to go. In his mind, information was born free, but is everywhere in chains. In this, he lived slightly outside the Big Tech-Big Content debate that I've written about as an ongoing battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley.