If you’re using an RSS feed to help keep track of Hit & Run blog posts or the Reason 24/7 news feed, Aaron Swartz gets some of the credit. The young programmer helped developed them.
He committed suicide Friday at the young age of 26.
Swartz was a victim of bullying. Not from jocks of frat boys targeting a brilliant tech nerd for being too smart. Rather, he was being harassed by the government – the Department of Justice specifically – for his activism in trying to make academic journals and public court records freely available online
Swartz did not profit from these activities whatsoever and JSTOR reportedly did not pursue any sort of justice for his intrusive but ultimately harmless hack. Nevertheless, federal prosecutors went after him, charging him with 13 federal counts. A trial was set for April. Alex Stamos was helping as an expert to prepare Swartz’s defense – Swartz faced the possibility of 35 years in prison – and details here the absurdity of the intensity of the DOJ’s efforts against the young man:
If I had taken the stand as planned and had been asked by the prosecutor whether Aaron’s actions were “wrong”, I would probably have replied that what Aaron did would better be described as “inconsiderate”. In the same way it is inconsiderate to write a check at the supermarket while a dozen people queue up behind you or to check out every book at the library needed for a History 101 paper.
In June, I wrote about efforts by activists to open access to government-funded academic research. They filed a petition at the White House’s “We the People” site. It received more than 50,000 signatures, twice the threshold needed to get a response from the administration.
This past week, the White House responded to recent trollish petitions about seceding from the union, deporting Piers Morgan, and building a Death Star. Yet it still has not responded to the open access petition.
The guy had depression issues but he was hounded by the feds for campaigning for open access to information we had a free right to, which we had already paid for.
Mr. Malamud said that while he did not approve of Mr. Swartz’s actions at M.I.T., “access to knowledge and access to justice have become all about access to money, and Aaron tried to change that. That should never have been considered a criminal activity.”
He had some success with JStor:
Founded in 1995, JSTOR, or Journal Storage, is nonprofit, but institutions can pay tens of thousands of dollars for a subscription that bundles scholarly publications online. JSTOR says it needs the money to collect and to distribute the material and, in some cases, subsidize institutions that cannot afford it. On Wednesday, JSTOR announced that it would open its archives for 1,200 journals to free reading by the public on a limited basis.
Mr. Swartz turned over his hard drives with 4.8 million documents, and JSTOR declined to pursue the case. But Carmen M. Ortiz, a United States attorney, pressed on, saying that “stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”
frick that bitch....when is there going to be a million man march on washington for open information to government documents and government funded research papers? Info is control.
This post was edited on 1/13 at 12:04 am