Despite knowing his remarkable work and reading about him — and reading things he’d written — in various tech media from time to time, Aaron Swartz and I have never met.
Nevertheless, what we share is a distant kinship — however remote — bound by both a deep and appreciative admiration on my part of Aaron’s accomplishments joined by advocating Aaron’s positions and philosophies on digital information’s use and availability.
As a FOSS advocate, you also share these same things with Aaron, to whatever degree you knew him, or didn’t know him.
So I’ll let the others who knew him personally take care of the rememberances and the eulogies; like his family, Lawrence Lessig here and here (especially the latter), as well as the folks at Electronic Frontier Foundation.
I’m happy to remember Aaron’s many accomplishments — a far wider scope of accomplishments than nearly all of us will ever achieve — and I’m inspired by the work he did during his short lifetime. My sincerest hope is that others remember Aaron and his accomplishments; and in remembering the man and his vast contributions for the general good of all they are inspired to the same degree, if not more.
However, this paragraph from the official statement from the family and partner of Aaron Swartz speaks volumes:
“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.”
So to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts and to MIT, I so state: J’accuse.
UPDATE: There’s a petition on whitehouse.gov to remove U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz. Sign it here. Now. Also, Democracy Now! has Lawrence Lessig on talking about Aaron Swartz here.
This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.
(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)