My inital reaction to the loss of Aaron Swartz can be summed up in this quote from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
While his methods were provocative, the goal that Aaron died fighting for — freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it — is one that we should all support.The law that made it possible for people/companies to take public funds but then keep the results of the work to themselves is so wrong. It was pushed through Congress by corporate interests and one of the first laws put into place by Ronald Reagan. It does a huge injustice to our society and furthers the selfish, greedy, murderous ideals of crapitalism. If we all pay for the research, we should all benefit. We should all be shareholders of it and any profit derived from it's results. At the minimum we should all have access to the results of what we paid for.
Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, and particularly their punishment regimes. Aaron's act was undoubtedly political activism, and taking such an act in the physical world would, at most, have a meant he faced light penalties akin to trespassing as part of a political protest. Because he used a computer, he instead faced long-term incarceration. This is a disparity that EFF has fought against for years. Yesterday, it had tragic consequences. Lawrence Lessig has called for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them. We agree.
This was Aaron Swartz' political statement. He wasn't hurting anybody. He was pushing for justice. He envisioned a world where a few people don't lord over everyone else. A more egalitarian society. For this he was pushed to suicide. Every single one of us who doesn't stand up to these abuses by our government, nor the fact that our government is now wholly owned by corporate interests, is responsible for Aaron Swartz' death. We have a lost a brilliant person who had already given so much in his young life and who probably had even more gifts to offer, which he did in service to all. We sacrificed him to the altar of the status quo. We were more concerned with whether a protest would block traffic. Or a window might get broken. We don't have the moral clarity to fight alongside Aaron or any of the people wrongfully arrested and abused by the police in this country.
This is our legacy. What we don't fight for will never happen. What we put with will be what we burden our children and others who come behind us with. Why are we standing idle, letting corporations be deemed people with rights which usurp those of real people?
I am angry that we lost this extraordinary young man. So angry. I'm furious. I'm frightened for my daughter's future. Mostly, right now, though, I'm fuming with disgust at all my friends and neighbors who choose to keep their head down so that they can be assured of their comfortable life, regardless of how much they know it is costing others and the planet. Is the legacy you really want to leave behind?
Nobody should talk to me right now.
2:16 PM PT: no one can explain better than Aaron himself, why he was doing what he did. Please, give him 22 minutes of your time. You won't regret it. He was a lovely, lovely speaker:
3:44 PM PT: His family is directly attributing his suicide to the overreach of the Justice Department and lack of support from MIT:
4:42 PM PT: Per Aaron's family:
"Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims."
That Attorney is Carmen Ortiz. Please sign this petition to have Ortiz removed from office.
"So here we are. A talented, passionate, and civic minded young man is dead at 26, destroyed by state power. But instead of focusing on what he lost, perhaps it is time to think about what we lost and what we will lose if this behavior by the government continues. Do we have so many people like Aaron Swartz to lose, to throw to the wolves of the police state? And does such a meal even satiate those vile dogs or does it merely wet their appetite? A key proponent of a free and open internet has been destroyed by the grinding terror of the federal government’s justice system. Not just a victim, but an example to terrify other activists into silence."
From a cybercrime forensics expert who was going to testify on Adam's behalf:
7:45 PM PT: for anyone who thinks Aaron did anything illegal, it is incumbent upon you to read what is posted at the link radical simplicity shared. there is a lot of information in there which clears up a lot of the misinformation around what he did. most importantly, here is the summary:
In short, Aaron Swartz was not the super hacker breathlessly described in the Government’s indictment and forensic reports, and his actions did not pose a real danger to JSTOR, MIT or the public. He was an intelligent young man who found a loophole that would allow him to download a lot of documents quickly. This loophole was created intentionally by MIT and JSTOR, and was codified contractually in the piles of paperwork turned over during discovery.
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. It is inconsiderate to download lots of files on shared wifi or to spider Wikipedia too quickly, but none of these actions should lead to a young person being hounded for years and haunted by the possibility of a 35 year sentence.