Tim Lee and Lawrence Lessig: “some punishment” of Swartz was “appropriate”

by Stephan Kinsella on January 13, 2013

I mentioned previously the tragic case of the heroic young programmer and Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz who committed suicide in the face of up to 50 years in federal prison for downloading some copyrighted academic articles that ought not be protected by copyright in the first place.1 This is yet another example of lives ruined by copyright; other examples include the outrageous gestapo raids on Kim Dotcom of Megaupload; censorship in the name of copyright;2 people put in federal prison for years for sharing movies, and so on).3

This is a horrific tragedy; it is murder by the state. A lof of the copyright skeptics are weighing in on this, most of them noting how sad this is; see, e.g, Glenn Greenwald’s The inspiring heroism of Aaron Swartz and  Declan McCullagh’s comments. Unfortunately, most copyright “reformers”  are not against copyright on principle. They do not want copyright abolished. We “need” some copyright. And if you have copyright, you have to enforce it. So they have to believe Swartz did something wrong in “taking” the academic articles, and deserved some punishment, even if 50 years is “obviously” “too harsh.”

Case in point: Tim Lee, who is not opposed to copyright but is in favor of reform,4 wrote in Feds go overboard in prosecuting information activist:

As I said at the time of Swartz’s arrest, his actions were foolish and some punishment was probably appropriate. But he probably shouldn’t have been the subject of a criminal indictment and he certainly shouldn’t have faced felony charges.

Criminal punishment for … copying information … “probably” should not have been imposed? Probably? But if it “certainly” should not have been a felony (meaning a crime punishable by over a year in prison), what does this mean—that maybe a 6 month prison sentence would have been okay? And if not prison, what punishment was appropriate—a million bucks? Lee is wrong. Swartz deserved no punishment at all, and, contra his blog post title, the problem with copyright is not the feds going “overboard” in enforcing it, but in having copyright at all. Copyright is censorship, it is evil, it is death.

As another example: Lawrence Lessig, in his post Prosecutor as Bully, wrote:

First, of course, Aaron brought Aaron here. As I said when I wrote about the case (when obligations required I say something publicly), if what the government alleged was true — and I say “if” because I am not revealing what Aaron said to me then — then what he did was wrong. And if not legally wrong, then at least morally wrong. The causes that Aaron fought for are my causes too. But as much as I respect those who disagree with me about this, these means are not mine.

But all this shows is that if the government proved its case, some punishment was appropriate. So what was that appropriate punishment? Was Aaron a terrorist? Or a cracker trying to profit from stolen goods? Or was this something completely different?

Again: no, he did nothing wrong. Absent copyright neither JSTOR nor MIT would have any cause of action for the copying of public information. And no punishment was appropriate whatsoever. The only evil here is the state, and its evil copyright law, which all lovers of liberty must oppose completely, utterly, root and branch.

Update: See two excellent posts about Swartz, by Brad Rodriguez, Cory Doctorow, and Jeff Tucker, below:




[Brad Rodriguez]
I don’t know why the suicide of Aaron Swartz has affected me so strongly. Before last Friday, I didn’t know his name, though I did remember his stunt of planting a laptop computer in an MIT wiring closet in order to download gigabytes of data from their internal network. Certainly there are greater injustices in the world than the trial he was about to face. Perhaps it is because Swartz reminds me so much of myself — a sense of “there, but for the grace of God, go I” — but I don’t think that’s it. I think his case crystallizes for me how deeply entrenched the two-tier “justice” system is in the United States — and how brutal the lower tier is.

His case was certainly an example of prosecutorial overkill, demanding felony charges and 30 years imprisonment for what amounts to a violation of terms of service:

…some legal experts considered the case unfounded, saying that MIT allows guests access to the articles and Swartz, a fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics, was a guest.

As a guest at MIT, Swartz had full legal access to the campus network. And I understand that MIT’s agreement with academic publisher JSTOR allows MIT users unlimited access to academic papers published on their website. Had Swartz stayed at home and downloaded a few thousand academic papers, he would have been perfectly within his rights. But by taking his laptop to MIT, plugging it directly into their high-speed network, and leaving it there for a day to download nearly 5 million academic papers, he — in MIT’s opinion — exceeded his privileges…and deserved criminal charges. Mix in one federal prosecutor with a “serious hate-on” for Swartz (as Cory Doctorow memorably put it), and you have a 26-year-old genius being threatened with 30 years in prison and a lifetime felony record. All this for “stealing” data which (a) was rightfully his to access, (b) was returned by him with no harm done, and (c) was nearly all publicly funded and therefore, theoretically, in the public domain.

Contrast this with Jon Corzine, who “lost”, with no explanation, $1.6 billion of MF Global customers’ money — real money taken from real people — and whom federal prosecutors declined to charge with anything.

In the aftermath, I’m reading plenty of rallying cries that the time is now to reform the American “justice” system. And yes, truly, that is where the problem lies. Overly expansive law, criminalizing a civil contract violation. Overly aggressive prosecutors, who use the law as a bludgeon to get a plea bargain, sparing them the necessity to prove their case. Too much “law and order” mentality, demanding harsher and harsher sentences for smaller and smaller crimes. And the two-tier justice system, by which the rich and well-connected get off scot-free, and the rest of us must bankrupt ourselves defending from the tax-funded prosecutor, or be thrown in jail.

Yes, that system needs to be overhauled or exterminated, root and branch. But I’m sorry to inform everyone: that’s never going to happen. Nothing short of a second American revolution will blast the powerful and the elite from their privileged positions, and the dependent and oblivious public will never revolt. Calls for reform are a waste of breath.

So what to do? I’d suggest a boycott of MIT, whose behavior in this entire affair has been starkly reprehensible — they could have dropped charges but did not. (By contrast, JSTOR reportedly did drop that demand once the documents had been returned.) I hope MIT will suffer a stain on its reputation that will take decades of hard work to eradicate. But, unless you are of college age, and shopping around for a university, how do you withdraw your business? (Needless to say, if you are considering MIT, I strongly encourage you to go anywhere else. Especially if you’re studying computer science, because you’ll never know when MIT will choose to prosecute you for connecting to their network.**)

No, I’ve concluded that there is only one place where meaningful change can actually be accomplished: it’s time to put an end to the academic publishing industry. I don’t mean an end to publishing — just an end to the industry which has grown around academia, taking their money from both sides (authors and readers) and demanding outrageous privileges and protections.* An end to the JSTORs of the world, and their never-ending quest to lock down freely contributed (and tax-paid!) content.

Unlike other objectives, I think this one is achievable. First, academia is moving in this direction anyway – more and more authors are grumbling about excessive page charges and glacial publishing schedules, and looking for an alternative. Second, the Internet means that viable “e-publishing” alternatives are starting to exist — such as the (now) well known arXiv.

Third, I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Aaron Swartz, who was persecuted for attempting to liberate academic content from behind paywalls. Now is the time.

I’m not saying that this will be easy. Academics operate on a “publish or perish” system whereby their promotions and tenure depend upon their publications. Right now, certain journals are more prestigious than others and confer more credit, thus those journals can charge more for publication and are more likely to appear in the campus library. The bias has to change in favor of “open access” journals. This means university and department administrators have to start giving more credit to on-line instead of print publications. And authors have to start making on-line publication their first, rather than last, choice. It would help if some high-profile authors would make a public commitment to publishing exclusively on-line, but that may not happen. Still, tenured academics could make such a commitment…and it would be a powerful statement.

Now, I doubt that 99% of academics know who Aaron Swartz is, or care. I don’t think that’s necessary; because what I’m proposing is to take a movement which has already started and give it an extra push. And if the 1% who do care add their effort, and change their habits, then the day of free and open academic publishing will come that much sooner.

* Many years ago, I completely stopped writing for ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) publications, because they began demanding that authors assign all copyrights to them, preventing authors such as me from posting their own work on their own web pages. Mind you, I was never paid for my articles — and even if I had been, the demand would still be outrageous.

** In my first year of graduate school, I found a backdoor into a campus computer and promptly made myself an administrator, locking the real administrator out for a day. Back then, that made me a prankster. Today, that would make me a felon…at least at MIT.

Brad - Tuesday 15 January 2013 – 06:32:48 - Permalink - Printer Friendly

Aaron Swartz, Hero and Martyr



My apologies for the sad tone of this piece, but a hero has fallen and we need to pay him tribute — and make sure his death is not in vain.

Every turning point in the history of civilization has its champions and its opponents. The opponents of the digital age are those who use the power of the state to keep the population in a state of ignorance, even though the technology is at hand to universalize knowledge through digital networks. The main weapon they use is known as “intellectual property,” even though the monopoly censorship they advocate has nothing to do with actual property.

The champions of the digital age are doing the opposite, breaking down the limits and working to spread enlightenment through peaceful means. They understand the astonishing power of computer networks to produce, reproduce, scale, and distribute unto infinity everything that can be rendered into digital form. Their work has set off the greatest migration in human history from the limits of the physical world to the unlimited possibilities embedded in global computer networks.

One such champion — now a martyr for the cause of freedom — was Aaron Swartz (1986-2013). He was the one of the brightest stars of his generation. That star took his own life in apparent frustration, depression, and fear over the ghastly hounding he was receiving from the U.S. Department of Justice. You might say that this David should have battled this Goliath to the death. But Aaron was only 26, a brilliant, kind, and sensitive young man whose passion was not war, but enlightenment. It was too much for him.

Born in Chicago, he showed astonishing promise at an early age. He came of age as the Internet opened to the world. He was winning prizes and meeting the greats at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the age of 13. At 14, he co-authored “Really Simple Syndication,” an innovative means of assembling and distributing Web content that makes Web browsing easy. It powers the “app economy,” makes reader programs work, and enables the content to be mixed and remixed all over the digital universe.

Aaron founded in Infogami, which later turned into Reddit, one of the Web’s most popular sites for information sharing and content generation. As with most of his projects, Reddit pushes aside the gatekeepers and puts the tools of creation in the hands of users. He then founded openlibrary.org on the same principle: By devolving power to you and me and away from the big shots, we can create tools that serve humanity in unprecedented ways.

To Aaron, the digital economy was not really about running the world through code and technology. It was about empowering people themselves with the ability to contribute to the building of ever greater technologies in the service of humanity. As much as he loved code, his true affections were for the human mind and the way technology enables it to take flight as never before. He could never understand why government was in resistance. He was like a person in the Renaissance raised with the printing press, astonished at people who wanted to smash it.

He was so convinced that digits were powered by human minds that he even put it to the test in seeking the real power behind Wikipedia. He refuted the supposition of even co-founder Jimmy Wales that it was a relatively small number of editors who were the main content providers. He demonstrated that the main providers were millions of users themselves, thereby upending even what the owners and experts had supposed. (He was only 19 years old when he showed this.)

Aaron was facing a trial this coming April, with him on one side and the full power of the world’s most heavily armed government on the other. The prosecution wanted him fined more than a million dollars and jailed for possibly 30-plus years. And what had he done? He hid a laptop in a closet at MIT and downloaded academic papers that are already available to millions around the world, with the apparent attempt to make them available even more broadly. That’s all he did. For this, he was charged with wire fraud and computer fraud.

The database he had tapped into is known as JSTOR. It is a global archive of academic papers published over the last 100 years in all fields and disciplines. It allows students to search, assemble, cite, and study in ways that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. Bibliographies that once took months to assemble now take seconds. Research once available to a tiny number is now available to students and faculty the world over.

JSTOR is a mighty service, even a marvel, and there are good reasons to celebrate the company and its achievements. At the same time, there is something squirrely about the service. It is available only at superhigh subscription prices and allocated based on geographic IP address. If you are on campus, you can get the goods. If you are not and have no logins, you are out of luck. Outside the IP range, it’s darkness.

Remember, we are talking about scientific research that is mostly tax-funded and from which the authors themselves receive no royalty or payment of any kind. Moreover, the subscription system is made profitable not because of the forces of free enterprise, but because the payments are made largely by public universities also living off taxpayers. The whole thing smacks of a kind of information feudalism. The scientists are the serfs. Those without access are cast into the outer darkness.

To its credit, JSTOR never lifted a finger against Aaron. They knew of his downloads, but never pressed charges. In fact, JSTOR has responded to his activism by gradually moving toward a more open policy. MIT can’t say the same, but the real villain here was the federal government. “Stealing is stealing,” barked U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz, “whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data, or dollars.”

Except for one thing: That is completely false. Crowbars hurt people. Stealing dollars takes from one person to give to another. But Aaron didn’t take anything away from anyone. Ortiz might not understand this, but when you download something, it doesn’t actually remove it from the original server. It makes an exact copy. It can do this with no limit. That’s the whole power of digital media.

The driving motivation in Aaron’s mind was information liberation. We have the capacity — right now in our times — to create global libraries of all known things. What’s stopping it is this antique institution known as copyright, an outright government privilege for monopolistic producers who use the violence of the state to stop peaceful sharing of knowledge. Aaron was offended by such limits in times when they are wholly unnecessary and cause unneeded human suffering.

Aaron didn’t choose the path of piracy and underground hacking to disable the feudalism. He wasn’t even particularly exercised about copyright itself. What he favored was freedom, free speech in particular. He sought constructive alternatives, which is why he was a great champion of Creative Commons, a system that uses existing copyright law, but allows writers and researchers to share their discoveries and creations with humanity, instead of having them smothered.

All that said, it wasn’t his attempt to liberate JSTOR that caused the government to go after him. No, it was something far more specular. Aaron also founded Common Dreams as a vehicle for digital activism. Much to the astonishment of nearly everyone, he marshaled the power of global networks last year to beat back one of the most deadly pieces of legislation to ever be proposed by Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.

SOPA was at war with the whole idea of information sharing, which is to say the whole basis of modern economic life and cultural progress. It would have given the power to any private party to aggress against any distributor of information and to do so without warnings, hearings, or burdens of proof. Taken to its extreme, the legislation would have rolled back history to a pre-1995 state of being.

Because no one told him that he could not, Aaron used every innovation to stop it. Within a matter of weeks, Congress backed off in absolute fear of the global outrage that had been engendered by the educational materials that Aaron had distributed. What no one expected had happened. Even politicians in the pay of media moguls backed down.

It was beautiful. In doing this, Aaron not only stopped the leviathan state; he pointed to the possibility of something completely marvelous, a reinvention of the way that citizens take part in the political process. In other words, he was showing how computer networks themselves could be used to upend the power of the state as we know it. He was innovating a new form of restraining power and giving it back to people, doing for the business of civic affairs what he had already done with technology.

The establishment was insanely bitter about the defeat. Within days, the government took action against the popular file-sharing site Megaupload in a military-style hit against its founder’s private estate, using SOPA-like powers that Congress had just denied the beast. It was as if the establishment was saying, “We don’t care about Aaron and what he did. We want this power. We are going to use the power. The people have nothing to do with it.”

Aaron’s work pointed to a brighter future. The government never forgave him for this. This is why they hounded him. This is why they wanted to bankrupt him. This is why they wanted him behind bars. They wanted him brought low. They wanted him in an orange jumpsuit, eating old bread and groveling before the judges and wardens. And they would accept no compromise, despite his lawyers attempts to negotiate: Aaron must be captured and jailed.

He would not relent. He would not give up his dreams and let them be shattered by their lies, pomps, black robes, and prisons. Our hearts break — deeply and profoundly — at Aaron’s decision to take his life. Maybe he saw it as a last cry for freedom. His having done so makes it impossible for them to make him a slave.

The state has taken from us an epic genius and humanitarian. What can come of this? Sometimes, the suffering and death of one great individual can shock society into dramatic change in a legal practice. Such people become martyrs, and their memories touch the conscience of everyone. We are overwhelmed by the sense of loss, and we vow to never see its like again.

“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” — Soren Kierkegaard

Jeffrey Tucker


RIP, Aaron Swartz

 at 4:53 am Sat, Jan 12


To the extent possible under law, Cory Doctorow has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to “RIP, Aaron Swartz.”

Update: Go read Lessig: “He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.”



My friend Aaron Swartz committed suicide yesterday, Jan 11. He was 26. I got woken up with the news about an hour ago. I’m still digesting it — I suspect I’ll be digesting it for a long time — but I thought it was important to put something public up so that we could talk about it. Aaron was a public guy.

I met Aaron when he was 14 or 15. He was working on XML stuff (he co-wrote the RSS specification when he was 14) and came to San Francisco often, and would stay with Lisa Rein, a friend of mine who was also an XML person and who took care of him and assured his parents he had adult supervision. In so many ways, he was an adult, even then, with a kind of intense, fast intellect that really made me feel like he was part and parcel of the Internet society, like he belonged in the place where your thoughts are what matter, and not who you are or how old you are.

But he was also unmistakably a kid then, too. He would only eat white food. We’d go to a Chinese restaurant and he’d order steamed rice. I suggested that he might be a supertaster and told him how to check it out, and he did, and decided that he was. We had a good talk about the stomach problems he faced and about how he would need to be careful because supertasters have a tendency to avoid “bitter” vegetables and end up deficient in fibre and vitamins. He immediately researched the hell out of the subject, figured out a strategy for eating better, and sorted it. The next time I saw him (in Chicago, where he lived — he took the El a long way from the suburbs to sit down and chat with me about distributed hash caching), he had a whole program in place.

I introduced him to Larry Lessig, and he was active in the original Creative Commons technical team, and became very involved in technology-freedom issues. Aaron had powerful, deeply felt ideals, but he was also always an impressionable young man, someone who often found himself moved by new passions. He always seemed somehow in search of mentors, and none of those mentors ever seemed to match the impossible standards he held them (and himself) to.

This was cause for real pain and distress for Aaron, and it was the root of his really unfortunate pattern of making high-profile, public denunciations of his friends and mentors. And it’s a testament to Aaron’s intellect, heart, and friendship that he was always forgiven for this. Many of us “grown ups” in Aaron’s life have, over the years, sat down to talk about this, and about our protective feelings for him, and to check in with one another and make sure that no one was too stung by Aaron’s disappointment in us. I think we all knew that, whatever the disappointment that Aaron expressed about us, it also reflected a disappointment in himself and the world.

Aaron accomplished some incredible things in his life. He was one of the early builders of Reddit (someone always turns up to point out that he was technically not a co-founder, but he was close enough as makes no damn), got bought by Wired/Conde Nast, engineered his own dismissal and got cashed out, and then became a full-time, uncompromising, reckless and delightful shit-disturber.

The post-Reddit era in Aaron’s life was really his coming of age. His stunts were breathtaking. At one point, he singlehandedly liberated 20 percent of US law. PACER, the system that gives Americans access to their own (public domain) case-law, charged a fee for each such access. After activists built RECAP (which allowed its users to put any caselaw they paid for into a free/public repository), Aaron spent a small fortune fetching a titanic amount of data and putting it into the public domain. The feds hated this. They smeared him, the FBI investigated him, and for a while, it looked like he’d be on the pointy end of some bad legal stuff, but he escaped it all, and emerged triumphant.

He also founded a group called DemandProgress, which used his technological savvy, money and passion to leverage victories in huge public policy fights. DemandProgress’s work was one of the decisive factors in last year’s victory over SOPA/PIPA, and that was only the start of his ambition.

I wrote to Aaron for help with Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother to get his ideas on a next-generation electioneering tool that could be used by committed, passionate candidates who didn’t want to end up beholden to monied interests and power-brokers. Here’s what he wrote back:

First he decides to take over the whole California Senate, so he can do things at scale. He finds a friend in each Senate district to run and plugs them into a web app he’s made for managing their campaigns. It has a database of all the local reporters, so there’s lots of local coverage for each of their campaign announcements.

Then it’s just a vote-finding machine. First it goes through your contacts list (via Facebook, twitter, IM, email, etc.) and lets you go down the list and try to recruit everyone to be a supporter. Every supporter is then asked to do the same thing with their contacts list. Once it’s done people you know, it has you go after local activists who are likely to be supportive. Once all those people are recruited, it does donors (grabbing the local campaign donor records). And then it moves on to voters and people you could register to vote. All the while, it’s doing massive A/B testing to optimize talking points for all these things. So as more calls are made and more supporters are recruited, it just keeps getting better and better at figuring out what will persuade people to volunteer. Plus the whole thing is built into a larger game/karma/points thing that makes it utterly addictive, with you always trying to stay one step ahead of your friends.

Meanwhile GIS software that knows where every voter is is calculating the optimal places to hold events around the district. The press database is blasting them out — and the press is coming, because they’re actually fun. Instead of sober speeches about random words, they’re much more like standup or the Daily Show — full of great, witty soundbites that work perfectly in an evening newscast or a newspaper story. And because they’re so entertaining and always a little different, they bring quite a following; they become events. And a big part of all of them getting the people there to pull out their smartphones and actually do some recruiting in the app, getting more people hooked on the game.

He doesn’t talk like a politician — he knows you’re sick of politicians spouting lies and politicians complaining about politicians spouting lies and the whole damn thing. He admits up front you don’t trust a word he says — and you shouldn’t! But here’s the difference: he’s not in the pocket of the big corporations. And you know how you can tell? Because each week he brings out a new whistleblower to tell a story about how a big corporation has mistreated its workers or the environment or its customers — just the kind of thing the current corruption in Sacramento is trying to cover up and that only he is going to fix.

(Obviously shades of Sinclair here…)

also you have to read http://books.theinfo.org/go/B005HE8ED4

For his TV ads, his volunteer base all take a stab at making an ad for him and the program automatically A/B tests them by asking people in the district to review a new TV show. The ads are then inserted into the commercial breaks and at the end of the show, when you ask the user how they liked it, you also sneak in some political questions. Web ads are tested by getting people to click on ads for a free personality test and then giving them a personality test with your political ad along the side and asking them some political questions. (Ever see ads for a free personality test? That’s what they really are. Everybody turns out to have the personality of a sparkle fish, which is nice and pleasant except when it meets someone it doesn’t like, …) Since it’s random, whichever group scores closest to you on the political questions must be most affected by the ad. Then they’re bought at what research shows to be the optimal time before the election, with careful selection of television show to maximize the appropriate voter demographics based on Nielsen data.

anyway, i could go on, but i should actually take a break and do some of this… hope you’re well

This was so perfect that I basically ran it verbatim in the book. Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill, and intelligence about people and issues. I think he could have revolutionized American (and worldwide) politics. His legacy may still yet do so.

Somewhere in there, Aaron’s recklessness put him right in harm’s way. Aaron snuck into MIT and planted a laptop in a utility closet, used it to download a lot of journal articles (many in the public domain), and then snuck in and retrieved it. This sort of thing is pretty par for the course around MIT, and though Aaron wasn’t an MIT student, he was a fixture in the Cambridge hacker scene, and associated with Harvard, and generally part of that gang, and Aaron hadn’t done anything with the articles (yet), so it seemed likely that it would just fizzle out.

Instead, they threw the book at him. Even though MIT and JSTOR (the journal publisher) backed down, the prosecution kept on. I heard lots of theories: the feds who’d tried unsuccessfully to nail him for the PACER/RECAP stunt had a serious hate-on for him; the feds were chasing down all the Cambridge hackers who had any connection to Bradley Manning in the hopes of turning one of them, and other, less credible theories. A couple of lawyers close to the case told me that they thought Aaron would go to jail.

This morning, a lot of people are speculating that Aaron killed himself because he was worried about doing time. That might be so. Imprisonment is one of my most visceral terrors, and it’s at least credible that fear of losing his liberty, of being subjected to violence (and perhaps sexual violence) in prison, was what drove Aaron to take this step.

But Aaron was also a person who’d had problems with depression for many years. He’d written about the subject publicly, and talked about it with his friends.

I don’t know if it’s productive to speculate about that, but here’s a thing that I do wonder about this morning, and that I hope you’ll think about, too. I don’t know for sure whether Aaron understood that any of us, any of his friends, would have taken a call from him at any hour of the day or night. I don’t know if he understood that wherever he was, there were people who cared about him, who admired him, who would get on a plane or a bus or on a video-call and talk to him.

Because whatever problems Aaron was facing, killing himself didn’t solve them. Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever. If he was lonely, he will never again be embraced by his friends. If he was despairing of the fight, he will never again rally his comrades with brilliant strategies and leadership. If he was sorrowing, he will never again be lifted from it.

Depression strikes so many of us. I’ve struggled with it, been so low I couldn’t see the sky, and found my way back again, though I never thought I would. Talking to people, doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, seeking out a counsellor or a Samaritan — all of these have a chance of bringing you back from those depths. Where there’s life, there’s hope. Living people can change things, dead people cannot.

I’m so sorry for Aaron, and sorry about Aaron. My sincere condolences to his parents, whom I never met, but who loved their brilliant, magnificently weird son and made sure he always had chaperonage when he went abroad on his adventures. My condolences to his friends, especially Quinn and Lisa, and the ones I know and the ones I don’t, and to his comrades at DemandProgress. To the world: we have all lost someone today who had more work to do, and who made the world a better place when he did it.

Goodbye, Aaron.


Click for ongoing posts about Aaron, his memorial service, his death, and the malicious prosecution brought by the DoJ against him


(Image: IMG_9892.JPG, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from quinn’s photostream)


Upate: Bizarrely, the homophobic hate-pushers, the Westboro Baptist Church, have threatened to picket Swartz’s funeral. Why? Well, because ”

GOD H8S Cyber Criminal THUGS

“. And “Cyber criminals are the latest face of this nation’s and this world’s raging at God and His Servants at WBC.”

I knew IP proponents had an irrational, evil, and almost religious devotion to it, but this is … a surprising twist.

See also the disgusting American Enterprise Institute post, Aaron Swartz: A tragic suicide, but his ‘hacktivism’ actually hurt the goals he claimed to promote, by one “Jay Weiser,” who accuses Swartz of “stealing” information (which cannot be owned or stolen) and who says that putting Swartz in a cage for 6 to 8 months was a “reasonable plea deal”. Horrible.

  1. Federal copyright persecution leads RSS co-author and anti-SOPA activist Aaron Swartz to kill himself. []
  2. The Patent, Copyright, Trademark, and Trade Secret Horror Files. []
  3. See, e.g., RIAA Celebrates 15 Year Jail Sentence For Movie and Music Pirate; Six Year Federal Prison Sentence for Copyright InfringementMan sentenced to federal prison for uploading “Wolverine” movie. []
  4. See Reason‘s Tim Lee on Two Decades of Attempts to Enforce Copyright. []

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