Digital Disconnect: Robert McChesney on “How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy”

Digital Disconnect: Robert McChesney on “How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy” — Video

TRANSCRIPT  DemocracyNow.org

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are on the road in Denver, Colorado, at the first day of the National Conference for Media Reform, where close to 2,000 people have gathered, broadcasting from Denver Open Media. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in a moment we’ll be joined by Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press, the organizers of the National Conference for Media Reform. He is just out with a new book called Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy. The book begins with a simple claim, quote: “The ways capitalism works and does not work determine the role the Internet might play in society.”

Before Bob joins us, I want to play a comment from another media activist who also dedicated much of his life to the Internet and democracy: Aaron Swartz. Aaron committed suicide in January. At the time of his death, he was facing up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted for using computers at MIT to download millions of academic articles provided by the nonprofit research service JSTOR. He was 26 years old. Attorneys for the late Internet freedom activist have filed an ethics complaint over his federal prosecution. His death prompted an outpouring of frustration and anger over his prosecution. On Capitol Hill, Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren of California introduced a bill dubbed “Aaron’s Law” to modify the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by decriminalizing violations of “terms of service” agreements. This is Aaron Swartz speaking in 2010 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He spoke just aboutJSTOR.

AARON SWARTZ: I am going to give you one example of something not as big as saving Congress, but something important that you can do right here at your own school. It just requires you willing to get your shoes a little bit muddy. By virtue of being students at a major U.S. university, I assume that you have access to a wide variety of scholarly journals. Pretty much every major university in the United States pays these sort of licensing fees to organizations like JSTOR and Thomson and ISI to get access to scholarly journals that the rest of the world can’t read. And these licensing fees are substantial. And they’re so substantial that people who are studying in India, instead of studying in the United States, don’t have this kind of access. They’re locked out from all of these journals. They’re locked out from our entire scientific legacy. I mean, a lot of these journal articles, they go back to the Enlightenment. Every time someone has written down a scientific paper, it’s been scanned and digitized and put in these collections.

That is a legacy that has been brought to us by the history of people doing interesting work, the history of scientists. It’s a legacy that should belong to us as a commons, as a people, but instead it’s been locked up and put online by a handful of for-profit corporations who then try and get the maximum profit they can out of it. Now, there are people, good people, trying to change this with the open access movement. So, all journals, going forward, they’re encouraging them to publish their work as open access, so open on the Internet, available for download by everybody, available for free copying, and perhaps even modification with attribution and notice.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Aaron Swartz speaking in 2010. He committed suicide in January.

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