Boing Boing co-editor speaks at NIU

By Ross Hettel

Blogger, best-selling author, and Internet activist Cory Doctorow visited NIU on Thursday to give a speech on the subject of Internet freedom and the social and ethical aspects of free speech in the digital age.

Doctorow, who is co-editor for the popular Internet site Boing Boing, also writes science fiction books.

The event was hosted by STEM Outreach and the Friends of NIU Libraries as part of the SF Teen Read program. High school students from around the area were invited to come out and participate in hands on activities before the speech. Activities included a copyright law game, a laser demonstration and video game design.

Gillian King-Cargille, Outreach Communications coordinator, said the SF Teen Read program started over the summer so students could get a change to learn about the science behind the science fiction from experts related to that field.

Doctorow’s award-winning book, Little Brother, tells the story of four high school seniors in San Francisco who, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, rebel against the Department of Homeland Security and their disregard for the Bill of Rights. The students collaborate using technology and the Internet, most of which is available or possible with today’s technology.

In addition to being available commercially, Little Brother is also available for free under a Creative Commons license, which allows the user to download, modify and share it for free, provided they do so on a non-commercial basis.

He said he gives his book away for free to enable others to “do what I did when I was younger, to share the books that I love.”

Doctorow shared his liberal position on copyright, and went on to explain the reasoning behind this opinion.

“When I was [younger], I copied everything I could get my hands on,” said Doctorow, recounting the practice of making mix-tapes to impress members of the opposite sex.

“I copy because human beings copy, because it’s what we do,” Doctorow said. “Every artist who exists learned their craft by copying.”

Following the speech, a panel of experts from NIU joined Doctorow and continued the discussion as well as answered questions and comments from the crowd.

For more information about the SF Teen Read, visit their website at