Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hacker, Open Commons Activist Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide

Sad that this has happened - he was only 26. Aaron Swartz was facing the possibility of dozens of years in prison for allegedly trying to share MIT academic journal articles on P2P file sharing sites. Over at ZDNet, Violet Blue provides the full story.

The charges were based on Swartz's sharing of four million academic articles from MIT, downloaded from the JSTOR site. Sadly, Swartz's suicide came two days after JSTOR announced it is releasing "more than 4.5 million articles" to the public.

Wired argued that many of the charges against Swartz were alleged Terms of Service violations. Their article strongly implies that the Department of Justice sought to make an example of Swartz:
The case tests the reach of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was passed in 1984 to enhance the government’s ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality. 
The government, however, has interpreted the anti-hacking provisions to include activities such as violating a website’s terms of service or a company’s computer usage policy, a position a federal appeals court in April said means “millions of unsuspecting individuals would find that they are engaging in criminal conduct.”

Hacker, Activist Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide

Summary: Aaron Swartz, hacker and information activist and Reddit cofounder, has committed suicide at age 26. UPDATED: Pirate Bay JSTOR torrent, memorial.

By Violet Blue for Zero Day | January 12, 2013

Reddit, Creative Commons and Demand Progress co-founder Aaron Swartz committed suicide in New York City on Friday, Jan. 11. He was 26 years old.

The tragedy was confirmed to MIT's The Tech by Swarz's uncle, and also his attorney.

This post has been updated to reflect going dark in mourning, and the extremely moving sharing of the JSTOR torrent on Pirate Bay to honor Swartz's memory.

Dedicated to the free and open Internet

Swartz was dedicated to sharing data and information online. He worked tirelessly to develop and popularize standards for free and open information sharing.

He co-authored RSS 1.0, developed the site, released the Python framework he developed as free software, he co-founded Creative Commons, and he was a member of the Harvard University Ethics Center Lab.

Swartz co-founded Demand Progress, which launched the primary campaign against Internet censorship bills (SOPA/PIPA). His work on Reddit enabled millions to share information and news socially (Swartz sold Infogami to Reddit).

Aaron Swartz was facing a potential sentence of dozens of years in prison for allegedly trying to make MIT academic journal articles public.

Charged with felony hacking

In September 2012, Aaron Swartz was charged with thirteen counts of felony hacking.

In July 2011 Swartz was arrested for allegedly scraping 4 million MIT papers from the JSTOR online journal archive.

He appeared in court in Sept. 2012 and pled not guilty.

Swartz's subsequent struggle for money to offset legal fees to fight the Department of Justice and stay afloat was no secret.

After the September charges came down, the wife of Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig - social justice lawyer Bettina Neuefeind - established and organized the site to raise money for his defense.
Read the whole article.