In memoriam Josh Gilbert

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Right now I'm in the middle of compiling a contact list of people who could give talks about the legal and social issues of computing, specifically relating to my own interests in intellectual property, freedom of expression, and youth rights.  I thought I'd include Josh Gilbert, founder of the Canadian Youth Rights Association.  I tried to look up his current contact information, and got an unpleasant surprise:  he killed himself just over a year ago.

I never knew Josh very well.  He and I were both members of ASFAR (Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions).  He drifted off to found his own organization with a Canadian focus, and I drifted away from ASFAR partly because of their US emphasis, partly because they weren't extreme enough for me, and partly because I didn't like the internal politics.  I never joined CYRA, although in retrospect maybe I should have.  I certainly viewed Josh as being on the same side as me.  We had some good debates when we were both active on the ASFAR mailing list.

My last communication with Josh Gilbert was shortly after the cp4break settlement, when he wrote to express his concern that by settling I'd set a precedent making it legally harder for people to reverse-engineer censorware in the future.  That's certainly a possibility that concerned me, too, and it was awfully hard to make the decision.  The subsequent Register of Copyrights ruling (exempting censorware from DMCA protection) probably lessened any damage I might have done by settling.  I hope and believe that I did the right thing with the cp4break case, but I recognize and respect that Josh didn't agree.

In the same way, my instinct is to disagree with him about ending his life.  I think that suicide is almost always a big mistake, and I'm especially sorry that we in the youth rights community have lost Josh's participation.  This is about the worst way to lose him, too.  I think I'd rather hear that he'd joined a fundamentalist cult and sworn enmity on the youth rights movement, instead of this.  But just as he respected my decision on cp4break even though he disagreed with it, I have to respect his decision on killing himself.  I know it must have been a hard decision; and if he had the courage to make that decision, he didn't owe it to me or to the movement to choose the path we'd have preferred.

[In memoriam Josh Gilbert]

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