Demand Progress’ Aaron Swartz dies at age 26.

I liked what 26 year old programmer / activist Aaron Swartz said recently about the stillborn SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and in August I wrote about his Demand Progress organization in an article titled seems to be on the right track. He’s now dead, after apparently committing suicide yesterday.

Aaron SwartzFor the past year he’s been under federal indictment for the theft of 4.8 million JSTOR (Journal Storage) documents from MIT. He intended to make them freely available for download by anyone. His actions raised questions about the ownership and publication of academic papers.

Previously, he and others did a similar thing with legal case law documents — public domain material — that resided behind a paywall in a library named PACER. They downloaded from PACER, then uploaded the documents to a free library that they dubbed RECAP.

His friend Cory Doctorow wrote in a eulogy: RIP, Aaron Swartz:

we have all lost someone today who had more work to do, and who made the world a better place when he did it.

New York Times article: Aaron Swartz, Precocious Programmer and Internet Activist, Dies at 26

Lessig Blog, v2: Prosecutor as bully

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

5 thoughts on “Demand Progress’ Aaron Swartz dies at age 26.”

    1. Thanks for the link to an unbiased article. Aaron has brought this festering question of access to “intellectual property” to the surface. In general, I’m in favor of giving away information: maybe a follower can run with it and “make it better”, in ways that I never dreamed of. It seems to me that this is how humankind progresses — not by hording information and charging admission so that only the privileged have access.

      I will register with JSTOR for individual access. Their “Sample set freely available” appears to be the usual pretentious academic drivel — hardly worth arguing over, let alone dying.


  1. The legal community is discussing this (please note that both of these articles quoted require a subscription to read more!):
    Political activist Aaron Swartz was charged in 2011 in Boston federal district court with the unauthorized use of a university’s networks to download millions of articles from the online archive JSTOR. His suicide last Friday instantly triggered a wave of criticism aimed at prosecutors’ alleged overzealousness in the pursuit of criminal charges.

    The tragic end to the life of Internet activist Aaron Swartz has touched off an impassioned debate about the nature of his alleged crimes — the charges were dismissed following his death — and the wisdom of prosecutors intent on bringing him to justice. Understandably, Swartz’s death has generated more sympathy behind his efforts to fight for what he called “Guerrilla Open Access” to scientific journals.

    Among those casting a kinder light on Mr. Swartz’s alleged hacking is the director of Harvard University’s Office for Scholarly Communication, Professor Stuart Shieber.


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