Tech Wizard Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide
Aaron Swartz, 26, who developed online technology like the RSS feed and the Reddit, committed suicide last week. His body was found in his Brooklyn apartment Friday. He had been trying to mount a case against him that could have sent him to jail for 30+ years and a one million dollar fine.
He was under investigation for making academic articles through the database JSTOR open and free to the public. He was being charged for the same kind of computer crimes that a banker committing fraud would too.
Swartz helped create Creative Commons, which encourages people to share information by allowing them to set limits about how their work can be shared. He was also one of the lead voices in fighting against the SOPA act.
Swartz’s passion was making academic information available to everyone. He was not doing this with malicious intentions, but simply because he believed that information should be free and open to all.
Chris Soghoian, a technologist and policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the current laws do not distinguish between malicious crimes committed for profit and cases were systems are broken into so that information could be spread to the public. There are many who believe that Swartz should have never been branded a felon.
Even JSTOR, a site from which the information was taken from, had little to no intention of going after Swartz for the academic articles. They explained that Swartz had the right to download from them, so he could not have gained unauthorized access. Those at JSTOR went out of their way to ask the lead prosecutor on the case to drop it, according to Swartz’s attorney.
The argument here is that if these were all public records, should he have faced charges for it even though there was no monetary gain for him? After all, the Internet is supposed to be medium of information readily available to everyone.
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