Who was Aaron Swartz?

Demand Progress founder and director Aaron Swartz

Picture by Daniel J. Sieradski (Wikimedia Commons)

If  you rarely heard about Aaron Swartz before the news of his suicide on January 11th, 2013 or even had no idea of he was, don’t worry. You’re not alone. This words following don’t pretend to be an obituary but a brief article to share what Swartz did to be recalled as “a hero of the free culture movement” in The New York Times (January 13th, 2013) after his death.

In the obituary, at Creative Commons website, Board member Lawrence Lessig remembered how, at the age of 16 years old, young Swartz get involved in the design for the code layer of Creative Commons licenses. Furthermore, he coauthored the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and, after his involvement in the Creative Commons team, he co-founded the social bookmarking and news aggregator Reddit and helped building Archive, a free public library.

His latest objective was to block the SOPA/PIPA legislation last year through DemandProgress or keynotes presentations such as “How we stopped SOPA”, hosted at the convention F2C: Freedom to Connect 2012 (Washington DC, May 21st, 2012).

At this convention and after his speech, the crew of War of The Web shared some thoughts with him in the first filmed interview for their documentary about the world of Internet. Excerpts from that interview help to discover Aaron’s point of view about the individual’s responsibility in the future of Internet or the issues of freedom of speech and access to information online.

Swartz’s friends and family, such as the blogger and activist Cory Doctorow, posted condolences all over the net. His family and partner shared an statement on his obituary website where they accused Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office of his death:

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. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

In his honour, the memorial at  Internet Archive in the evening of Thursday, January 24th is fully available to stream anytime.

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