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November 8, 2015

Happy Birthday Aaron Swartz – RIP

By Mark Wachtler

November 8, 2015. Highland Park, IL (ONN) Aaron Swartz was a child genius and one of the internet’s first computer pioneers. He taught himself to read at age three. He invented the first user created and updated online encyclopedia before Wikipedia even existed. He was a co-creator of the RSS feed, which allows content to be hosted on one website but streamed live on others. Sharing information and knowledge was Aaron Swartz’ passion. And it got him killed by the US Dept of Justice.

Aaron Swartz 1986-2013







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Aaron Swartz – Hero and Martyr

“The government killed my son,” Aaron’s dad Bob Swartz told the world’s media in the hours after his son’s body was found on January 11, 2013. A 2013 article from Whiteout Press summarizes what happened to Aaron Swartz, and why. From ‘Feds open first Aaron Swartz Files, Political Manifesto’:

‘For releasing a virtual library of millions of educational documents hosted by Harvard and MIT Universities to the general public, he was arrested and charged with 13 crimes including the violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Swartz was threatened by federal prosecutors with a $1 million fine and a 35-year prison sentence.

This author thought it was strange that an agency like the Secret Service would take the lead role in investigating a crime that was the equivalent of stealing a bunch of library books from a university library and then giving them away free to the poor. But now that the agency that protects the President has released the first 104 pages of its secret and long-awaited 14,500-page Aaron Swartz file, Americans have a better sense why.

As it’s slowly emerging, federal authorities were overcome by a single-minded obsession with stopping the world’s internet freedom movement. At its extreme, some activists within the movement believe that all information and knowledge should be open to the public. Opposing that belief are governments and corporations around the world that are determined to enforce copyright and trademark laws.’



Another 2013 Whiteout Press article details the response to Aaron’s suicide from his family. From ‘MIT admits Secret Role in Aaron Swartz Death’:

The statement released by his family immediately after his death sheds some light on his possible motives, ‘Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable – these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.”

A separate statement from the US Attorney’s office after Swartz’ suicide attempted to transfer blame to Congress and its laws against stealing knowledge, “The prosecutors recognized that there was no evidence against Mr. Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain, and they recognized that his conduct – while a violation of the law – did not warrant the severe punishments authorized by Congress and called for by the sentencing guidelines in appropriate cases.”

The US Attorney gave Aaron Swartz’ lawyer two options, and only two options. Either Aaron would plead guilty to 13 felonies and accept the prison sentence imposed by the judge or he could plead not guilty and if convicted, be sentenced to at least seven years in prison. In his own way, Aaron Swartz showed the Dept of Justice there was a third option – he took his own life to escape the non-stop threats and intimidation by the US government.



It’s fitting that today, Aaron Swartz’ birthday, we at Whiteout Press are re-releasing a documentary about Aaron’s life and death. The credits attribute the creation of the film to writer-director Brian Knappenberger. But the piece has been distributed throughout the world by his friends from the hacker group Anonymous.

 

The Aaron Swartz documentary

 

In Aaron Swartz’ own words

We’ll close this memorial article with two quotes from the late Aaron Swartz himself. They sum up why he released university libraries to the general public, and why he died for it.

“The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.” – Aaron Swartz.

“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.” – Aaron Swartz.

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