Aaron was a colleague of mine at ThoughtWorks. I first heard his story just before Christmas 2012. ThoughtWorks held an all-hands conference call to ask everyone to support him. I was very moved by his story and resolved to write about him. But Christmas got in the way…It's too late for me to help him now, but I want to share his story with you in the hopes that his life's work will continue.
Aaron was an amazing young man. At the age of 14 he co-authored the RSS spec. He was also instrumental in the development of Reddit, Jottit and the Creative Commons.
we’ve lost a fighter. We’ve lost somebody who put huge energy into righting wrongs. There are people around the world who take it on themselves to just try to fix the world but very few of them do it 24/7 like Aaron. …what he was doing up to the end was fighting for right...
Aaron had not really thought about copyright issues until 2010 when his friend Peter called him to help combat COICA, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeiting Act. Aaron realised this bill would prevent Americans from accessing any sites that contained copyright infringing materials. So he started an online petition, set up Demand Progress and began lobbying. COICA was changed to PIPA then SOPA, which finally stalled and has been abandoned.
PACERIn 2008 Aaron downloaded 2.7 million documents from the legal records databaseHe made them available to everyone for free through RECAPThe FBI investigated him but did not press chargesJSTOR The US Attorney's office received their opportunity to silence Aaron when in late 2010 he used MIT's computer network to download over 4 million articles from JSTOR. The US Attorney claims he 'stole' the articles, although as a Harvard researcher he was allowed free access to them. Aaron did no permanent damage to JSTOR or the MIT computer network. He made no money from the download, nor did he harm any person. JSTOR was not interested in pressing charges against him, yet by September 2012 the US Attorney had charged him with 13 felony counts.
The wealth that Aaron earned through the sale of Reddit was sucked dry by his legal fees. His parents were to mortgage their house to help him fight the charges. How can a country founded on the principle of liberty and justice for all make justice unaffordable to everyone without massive wealth?
For good reason the statue of lady justice is blindfolded. No more should her innocence be besmirched, her scales tipped, nor her sword hand guided. Furthermore there must be a solemn commitment to freedom of the internet, this last great common space of humanity, and to the common ownership of information to further the common good…We understand that due to the actions we take we exclude ourselves from the system within which solutions are found. There are others who serve that purpose, people far more respectable than us, people whose voices emerge from the light, and not the shadows. These voices are already making clear the reforms that have been necessary for some time, and are outright required now.It is these people that the justice system, the government, and law enforcement must engage with. Their voices are already ringing strong with a chorus of determined resolution. We demand only that this chorus is not ignored.
He was also a Freedom Fighter…we’ve lost a fighter. We’ve lost somebody whoput huge energy into righting wrongs. There arepeople around the world who take it onthemselves to just try to fix the world but veryfew of them do it 24/7 like Aaron. …what he wasdoing up to the end was fighting for right...Sir Tim Berners Lee18 Jan 2013www.rememberaaronsw.org
His battles were against Five Great Injustices1) Prosecutorial Overreach2) The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act3) Guilty Until Proven Rich4) Sequestration of Public Domain Knowledge5) Obsession with Copyright Violation
4) Sequestration of Public Domain KnowledgeAaron believed public domain documents should be freely available to all
3) Guilty Until Proven Rich https://www.facebook.com/TheOther98
2) The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act http://www.gocomics.com/tomthedancingbug/2013/02/01
1) Prosecutorial OverreachAaron was facing 35 years in prison and $1m in fines foractions that harmed no-one.He was hounded for two years by Asst US AttorneysScott Garland and Stephen Heymann, working underUS Attorney Carmen OrtizHis parents have said "he was killedby the government"Aaron said "fix the machine, not theperson"
How Aaron Responded Aaron fought the District Attorneys office for two years.On January 11 2013, exhausted, demoralised,and out of money, Aaron gave up the fight by taking his own life.
Theres Going To Be A Revolution …is what I posted on Facebook on January 17 I was wrong Were already in the middle of it Many other people have been affected by it:• Julian Assange • Andrew Auernheimer • Kim Dotcom• Bradley Manning • Lori Drew • Gary McKinnon• Gottfrid Svartholm • …and more… Its the Internet Freedom Revolution And its entering a whole new phase…
Join the "people whose voices emerge from the light"• Join Demand Progress and sign their online petition• Sign the Whitehouse Petitions for reform of the CFAA and removal of Carmen Ortiz• Research the stories of the other people affected by the Internet Freedom Revolution• Raise awareness amongst your community• Support Creative Commons• Ask your local politicians about their stance on internet censorship and copyright law• Vote for people who are progressive on these issues
HistoryFeb 5: The Battle for his Legacy - SlateFeb 4: Why Aaron Died – Taren SKJan 26: There Will Be Chaos – AnonymousJan 18: Five Great Injustices - MACJan 17: Theres Going to be a Revolution – MACJan 14: Thoughtworks Mourns Aaron SwartzJan 13: Fighting for Freedom - MACJan 12: Aaron Swartz Found Dead – Huffington Post25/9/12: Fix the Machine, Not the Person – Aaron22/5/12: How We Stopped SOPA - Aaron
Remember Aaron Swartz Aarons Blog Remember Aaron SW Aarons Army