“One of the things that was common amongst the community that created the Internet, was that we were fairly homogenous, and that in order to obtain information – we would share it. Not buy it,” said Vint Cerf, referring to the recent suicide of computer activist Aaron Swartz.
Widely known as the ‘Father of the Internet’, Vint Cerf is a dapper man, who is rarely seen without his three-piece suit. After co-creating the TCP/IP protocol in the early 1980’s, he went on to become the Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, campaigning for internet freedom.
The technologist is in town as part of an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) conference taking place in Chennai over the next few days and is speaking about (apart from the future of the Internet), the need for greater sharing of information and open-access.
Swartz was an activist who was recently facing a 35-year prison sentence and up to $1 million in fines for allegedly stealing 4.8 million articles from the academic literature repository JSTOR, aiming to make them public.
“While we have to be conscious of the harm that occurs on the network, we have to make sure we don’t solve bad behaviour by just trampling all over people’s human rights,” continued Mr. Cerf, speaking to the The Hindu in an interaction on Thursday.
Anytime a young person dies unnecessarily, he said, it is heart-wrenching. “It is a series of things that happened that could have easily been preventable.”
What this should focus on, Mr. Cerf pointed out, is that the problems that intellectual property faces when it goes onto the World Wide Web.
“Because lets face it, the web is just a giant machine that replicates information. It is easily conceivable that the prosecution didn’t realise how fragile Aaron was and sought to make an example out of him. The need of the hour, therefore, is to see the intellectual property industry actively moving information into the public domain. This is all in the framework of working with creators, technologists and legislators,” he said.
When you see people pirating things, he continued, it is just that they are trying to push things into the public domain. “Creative Commons for example is perfect in that it really gels with the scope of what the Internet really can do. In the meantime, this was a terrible outcome — and highlights the need for us to realize how to adapt in a cyber environment.”