Some Thoughts On Aaron Swartz

from the a-loss dept

This past weekend has, tragically, been way too much about death for me. On Friday evening I found out that a close relative had just passed away, and had just spent some time talking to other family members, crying, figuring out how I was going to fly across the country for a funeral, etc. I'd finally had enough and was about to shut down and go to sleep, when an email popped up from a friend telling me that Aaron Swartz had killed himself. And, suddenly, there was more death to think about in a very different way. The past few days I've been thinking a lot about both my relative and Aaron -- two very different people who probably only share the end date of their lives. I'm mourning them both, but since Aaron was a public figure and relevant to what we write about here, I wanted to write something about him, even as the mourning sector of my brain tries to figure out how you grieve for multiple people at the same time.

I did not know Aaron all that well, but I did know him. I've been reading many of the stories from those who did know him quite well, and it's amazingly touching. But I wanted to share my short story, because it's what keeps running through my mind. In my head, there are a few key moments that I keep thinking about concerning Aaron. One is the first time I met him. I can't place the exact time, but I think it was a decade ago at a conference in Santa Clara (I remember the hotel well). He was sitting at a table, and wow, did he look young. Very much like the kid in this photo by Richard Gibson, that Aaron posted to his own website, showing himself talking to Larry Lessig back in 2002 -- at the age of 15.
I knew back then that he'd been one of the creators of one version of RSS (and that he and Dave Winer didn't get along because of some disputes over that). And I'd remembered hearing that he was young. But seeing that little kid sitting there was still really surprising. I talked to him very briefly at that event, and was immediately struck by how sharp he was. I also remember him helping to "launch" Creative Commons -- and I thought that, at nearly twice his age, I'd done so little.

I started reading his blog soon after that, which was an interesting mix of content from technical to political to philosophical to personal. When he started college, at Stanford, something about his blog posts were both captivating and horrifying at the same time -- describing in vivid details the kinds of thoughts many of us have when we go to college for the first time and are trying to figure out how and where we fit into the world. What struck me as so odd was that because of everything else he had done, my mind just defaulted to assuming that he was completely mature in all aspects of his life. But he was still just a kid.

The blog post I most remember came maybe a month or so after he had gotten to Stanford, and it involved him telling the story -- again, in both captivating and horrifying detail -- about him hooking up with a girl. My memory is fuzzy at this point -- and a very cursory spin through his blog doesn't turn up the post -- but I remember her joking about him being famous, which lead to the usual sort of awkwardness that comes with early makeout sessions, but all described in detail. I also vaguely remember some sort of followup, indicating that the girl was mortified about the public reporting on their rendezvous.

It was Aaron, sorting out his life in public. That may be more common these days, but it was certainly relatively new back then, and it was so disjointed from the "profesional" Aaron, who had already accomplished so much. I kept thinking... "that's right, he's just a kid."

But the kid grew up. He left Stanford, he joined the first YCombinator class, he did a startup that didn't go far, but which eventually led him to joining the early Reddit team. Here and there, he kept popping up, always doing something interesting. The next time I came across him was in 2009, when the FBI investigated him for daring to download a ton of public domain court documents from PACER. While PACER tries to charge $0.10/page (at the time it was $0.08) the documents are still public domain. Many people find this annoying -- and Aaron was a true crusader for the right to information. So when he found out that some libraries were experimenting with free PACER access as a trial, he went to one, set up a perl script and had it cycle through tons of documents, downloading them for him to collect. Eventually, the FBI realized it had no case: freely offered access to public domain material is legal to use.

Obviously, that foreshadowed his more recent legal troubles.

Over the last couple years, Aaron and I emailed occasionally. He and I were two of the only people (along with Senator Wyden) who seemed really concerned about the predecessor to SOPA/PIPA called COICA, and he had talked to me about helping get more people aware of the problems of the bill. And then, when SOPA/PIPA came along, we were in touch over the efforts against that (along with many others as well). But I also remember the last two times I heard from Aaron. Last summer, out of the blue, he emailed me to say that he'd run across a minor (but annoying) technical error on Techdirt, and suggested how to fix it. And then, in October, when he finally got his FOIA request returned concerning ICE's domain seizures, he emailed to let me know. I never communicated with him directly about his own ongoing case, but I remember being both surprised and impressed (and then less surprised once I thought about it) that he'd continued to push forward on his activist causes, even while facing trial for one of them.

The only time I ever met Aaron in person was that one time, a decade ago. I probably emailed with him less than 100 times -- with most of those coming over the past couple of years. I always knew he was complex -- wise way beyond his years in some things, and still figuring out other things at the same time. But the news of his suicide definitely took me by surprise, though others have pointed out that he's hinted at such things in the past.

I will also say that I know there's been a rush to "blame" the lawsuit against him on this. In fact, our September post detailing the new charges against him got a tremendous amount of traffic over the weekend. Aaron's own family has stated:
“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.”
Just as I was hesitant to blame Lori Drew or Dharun Ravi for actions that were connected to later suicides of people they had taunted, it still feels wrong to say that the case itself led to his suicide, without more details. That said, as Tim Lee noted, knowing Aaron, he would be the first in line to suggest the value of using the circumstances of his own death to get reform of the massively broken Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which he was charged under.

Again, as detailed in our earlier post, as well as an earlier analysis, the case against him was a joke: it involved massive charges for downloading information that was made freely available to the campus network he was on. At best, we could have seen a trespassing citation -- but instead he was facing decades in jail and seven figure fines. For accessing information. It really showed a case where the feds seemed to be going after Aaron because they didn't like him -- and, as we've seen, when the feds don't like you, they can make your life hell. JSTOR -- the supposedly "harmed" party -- wanted nothing to do with the case. The feds just seemed to want to make an example out of Aaron... for the "crime" of wanting access to knowledge. It would be great to see an Aaron Swartz Act to reform the worst parts of the CFAA. It might not be his biggest legacy, but it would be a good one to add to a long list.

Larry Lessig -- who knows more about both Aaron and the case against him than most people -- has a tremendously powerful post calling out the federal government (and MIT) for their actions in the case against Aaron, suggesting that the feds offered up a plea deal, but Aaron would not take anything that would have him described as a felon. More is going to come out on what happened, I'm sure, and the government is not going to look good.

If you want to read more thoughts on Aaron from people who knew him much better than I, I suggest you read the posts by Cory Doctorow and Danny O'Brien. Also, Mathew Ingram has been curating a list of some of the more interesting remembrances -- and a tumblr for Remember Aaron Swartz is filling up with wonderful remembrances.

There are so many sad things about this story, but the biggest is the most obvious: knowing just how much Aaron had accomplished already in his short life, combined with his drive and determination, we'll now never know how much more he would have accomplished down the road -- and every single one of us will lead less fulfilling lives because of that loss. He was still just a kid... a kid who had already accomplished amazing things.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:49am

    from who i have met americans are open good people, but the have devised for themselves a means, nasty, eat your own young system to live in and run your country

     

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:13am

    Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    It is legally, if not morally wrong to share mankind's knowledge - to obtain (with the intent to distribute) published scientific papers without authorisation from the respective copyright holder(s) is a very serious crime, and should be dealt with in the harshest possible way.

    http://c4sif.org/2013/01/tim-lee-some-punishment-of-swartz-was-probably-appropriate/

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:30am

    Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    It is not morally wrong at all. Knowledge is meant to be shared because if knowledge is not shared openly, how the hell is the human race meant to better itself? Would we have the scientific advances we have today without the open sharing of knowledge? I don't think we would have.

    I will tell you what is morally wrong. It is morally wrong to keep important scientific ideas hidden behind a wall of copyright/patents/trademarks rather than having them out in the open where they can be discussed and improved.

     

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    nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:58am

    You fight back by living long and living well

    Excerpt from Cory Doctorow's post:

    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.
    http://boingboing.net/2013/01/12/rip-aaron-swartz.html


    The tragedy here is compounded not just by this young man's unfortunate decision, but by the loss of potential and what he stood for.

    I do not know the origin of this quote but I've heard it said "The best form of revenge is to live well." I think in this case it could be adapted to "The best way to defeat your enemies is to outlive them."

    If he'd held on for long enough, those persecuting him would grow old and die... Aaron's generation is a generation of sharing culture. His best years were yet to come... even in the unlikely event he would have done prison time. His generation will be kinder to people like him, they will even grant pardons and anoint them as leaders.

    How many former terrorists, agitators, protestors and "felons" do we know who have gone on to become leaders and presidents after release from prison under political charges. Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto to name just a few. He inspired thousands, but he could have inspired millions.

    If copyright reformers want to use his tragic death for the purposes of reform - I say they should - they should milk it for what it's worth. At this point in time if it was my death I don't think many would use it for such a purpose but if they did I'd be honoured.

    I have a close relative who has attempted to commit suicide twice. Both times they have regretted it afterwords. Depression plays a big part, but they have also experienced some tragic circumstances and loss in their lives - circumstances that have led to this depression and sense of hopelessness.

    It's worthwhile considering that most of us would be pretty depressed if we were facing such heavy persecution. You only need a temporary - but intense - bout of hopelessness and self-deprecation to push you over the edge.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:06am

    Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    Did you read the link Crosbie Fitch posted?

    Knowing Crosbie Fitch is a copyright abolitionist, I knew his comment was sarcasm, even before opening the link he posted. Reading the linked post makes it completely clear.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:07am

    and so sad that those that played a big part in this tragedy by persecuting in the way that, for a supposedly democratic society, only the USA law enforcement can, dont give a shit! as long as law enforcement wins it's cases, even though the charges may false or trumped up and big business keeps it's 'stuff' locked up, that's all that seems to matter! being right is irrelevant, wining is the important factor!! the consequences dont count!!

     

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    CK20XX, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:07am

    Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    I think Mr. Rogers, Jesus, and every other decent person who's ever lived would instead say it's better to treat others as you'd like to be treated. That means not hoarding your belongings, but selflessly sharing them out of love and compassion for your fellow man.

     

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:17am

    Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    As Queen Anne observed in 1709, a nation cannot be encouraged to learn unless publishers have the privilege of prohibiting the unauthorised manufacture and distribution of copies.

    For science and the useful arts to progress, the American people need copyright, they too need the power to prohibit the sharing of mankind's knowledge, for without it there is no profit in its production.

    It is morally wrong to impede the people's learning and to impede the progress of science, therefore it is a crime against humanity to conspire or prepare in acts that show intent to disseminate scientific papers contrary to copyright.

     

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    Ruairí McKiernan, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:45am

    R.I.P Aaron

    R.I.P Aaron. What an incredible guy he was. His spirit lives on. So sad to know he suffered like this. Let us remember him and carry forward his work and look after each other along the way.

    Here's my 10 minute video interview with him from January 2010. Worth a watch: http://youtu.be/JUt5gjqNI1w

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 3:01am

    I think the piece in NYT (which was good) labeled his death as creating a 'cause' for the right to information and I just don't see that. Whatever momentum that might come from this - and I have no doubt he'd want it from what I've read, but it pales in light of the good he could have done if he were still here.

    Suicide rates for the 15-25 year olds have been increasing for years, to the point that I don't think we can just blame the kids, chemistry, or even mental health alone. Not when they are this high. Our society has become toxic.

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 3:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    Do you know what the Internet is? Kinda hard to spot sarcasm online. Wind your neck in.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 3:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    If the copyright lobby and the government continue their efforts at enforcement then slowly these kind of events will accumulate - and copyright will become toxic in the public mind. (Actually it already is in the private public mind of most educated people).

    Eventually it will simply have to be abolished.

    Abolition is the only way - you cannot have "a little bit" of it - just like you cannot be "a little bit" pregnant.

    Once you have some copyright then you will always have people with a strong financial interest in extending both its scope and length. It will grow in the body politic like a cancer. Cutting it out is the only solution - painful for some but necessary.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 3:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    That comment was mine - thought I was signed in - but evidently not..

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 3:59am

    Thanks

    Thanks for the update Mike, and my condolences on your own loss. Hang in there.

     

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    Wolfy, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 4:18am

    and another brightly-burning star falls from the sky.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 4:55am

    Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    It's worthwhile considering that most of us would be pretty depressed if we were facing such heavy persecution. You only need a temporary - but intense - bout of hopelessness and self-deprecation to push you over the edge.

    I wonder what percentage of people facing criminal charges commit suicide and even whether it's higher than the general population. Suicide (except in the case of a painful, lingering terminal illness) seems like a coward's way out- transferring your misery on to the shoulders of those who love you. It seems like he had a lot of people in his life he could have reached out to, but chose this instead.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 5:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    You assume progress and creativity depend on copyright to exist which is completely false given how recent "intellectual property" concepts are. You also assume that there cannot be profit without locking up the content, which is also false.

    Try harder.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 5:11am

    Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    Bravo, very well written. I know people who attempted or thought of suiciding (seriously). They say it cannot be controlled. A person that's on that level of depression needs help and the fact that the FBI vultures were attacking him fiercely surely did not help.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 5:25am

    Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    Not to dispute you, but if someone thinks of committing suicide but doesn't; isn't that evidence that it can be controlled? And how about those surviving suicide attempts? Isn't it generally held that it is a cry for help- rather than a serious attempt to take ones life? Maybe the thoughts cannot be controlled but it seems that the action most often can.

     

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    Ophelia Millais (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 5:33am

    Tinfoil hat time - who talked to the Feds?

    Sorry to pounce on this one piece of your article, and feel free to ignore this distraction, but I'm not convinced JSTOR "wanted nothing to do with the case." In their press release from the time of Swartz's arrest, JSTOR never expressed actual disapproval of the Feds' pursuit of the case, nor did they deny involvement.

    What JSTOR said was they were the ones who discovered what he was doing, put a stop to it, found out who he was (apparently with help from someone else?), and settled their dispute with him in the month prior to his arrest. And they said the decision to prosecute wasn't theirs. Well of course it wasn't their decision; it's a criminal case! The government makes that decision.

    Although they say they had "no interest" in it becoming an ongoing legal matter, they don't at all seem to mind at all that the Feds were pursuing the case. Perhaps they were just trying not to irritate the publishers, but to just say it was "not our decision" without saying "and we find the decision regrettable", well, it's about the same as "hey, not my problem" or "sucks to be him".

    My tinfoil hat is wearing its own tinfoil hat, I admit, but it seems quite plausible that JSTOR, MIT, and/or JSTOR's publisher buddies would've gotten the ball rolling, telling the Feds "here's what we know about what he did. Do with it what you will, because we're not going to pursue it in civil court" ... if not also "so go teach that son of a bitch a lesson."

    I mean, would the prosecution really have put together the initial indictment without any cooperation or claims of harm from the parties? It's possible, but I smell a rat. I think someone said "settlement is not enough... let's tell the Feds what we know, and if they want to pursue it, great. If not, oh well. Either way, 'not my problem!'"

    So I want to know what prompted the Feds to press charges. How did they learn about the incident? What contact did they have with MIT and with JSTOR? What contact did JSTOR have with MIT? And were any publishers involved?

     

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    Richard (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 5:37am

    Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    It does depend on the circumstances. It is known that a number of people who were wrongly targeted as paedophiles by operation ORE did commit suicide - in those cases it may have prevented their loved ones from enduring something worse.

    Also suicide is a well established form of protest in some cultures.

     

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    gorehound (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 5:51am

    Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    Who the hell are you ?
    Some kind of Company Man I guess.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    Re: Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    It does depend on the circumstances. It is known that a number of people who were wrongly targeted as paedophiles by operation ORE did commit suicide - in those cases it may have prevented their loved ones from enduring something worse.

    Also suicide is a well established form of protest in some cultures.


    Good point, I can see the lasting label of being a child molester as something that'd drive someone over the edge. But such is not the case here. Also, we're not talking about a Buddhist monk setting himself on fire in protest of a war. There's no tradition of suicide as protest in the US, and all reports indicate that he suffered from depression.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 6:02am

    Re: Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    Indeed most of us if not all have had thoughts of taking our own lives in dire moments. Psychologists (and I'm saying that out of a conversation I had with one on the matter) confirm that. A healthy individual will quickly brush them aside.

    However, as these dire moments get worse or extend their durations long enough the individual mental health will degrade to the point this natural aversion to taking their own life will not be strong enough. After a determined point when depression kicks in the cycle starts to feed itself and honestly, having lived and followed more than one person that developed such mental state it's virtually impossible to stop it without help unless you are in the very beginning of the illness.

    Those who got close enough but did not act are fortunate. They were either helped by some external factor (ie: my mother did not suicide because she thought of me - I was a baby at the time) or due to intense and dedicated help from friends, family and/or professionals.

    When the person gets to the state where he/she acts it cannot be controlled anymore without serious help. Regardless if the attempt works or not. Obviously there are the cases where the person just want to injure him/herself to call for help. Then it's not an attempt of suiciding. Yet.

     

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    Berenerd (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 6:06am

    Re: Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    That is like saying, "If its a legitimate rape, the body has ways of rejecting that..." I have been to the edge and kept myself from going over. I have had to wake each morning coming up with reasons to why I should bother facing the day. Wishing it were me that died, not my loved ones. Some times the mental drain is too much and some people, can't fight it. Yes, sometimes a failed suicide is a cry for help, sometimes its a person, who someone didn't know cared that much, stepping in and taking the gun out of your hand. You do NOT know what this kid was going through, you can't even fathom the pulls he had to fight. Yes he hurt his family and loved ones. Yes he took the easy way out. Yes, there is no undoing what is now set in stone. I can not blame him for his death, but pity him, for feeling it was his only way out.

     

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    Berenerd (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 6:07am

    Re: Thanks

    ^^^^^^

    This

     

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    ChrisB, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 6:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    There is no sarcasm. The link discusses that some punishment is appropriate, because copying is wrong. Sorry but Fitch is an idiot. It is "morally wrong to share mankind's knowledge"?!?!? He sounds like a psychopath. Go back to the dark ages Fitch.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 6:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    Depression can be brought on when given a choice between giving up a strongly held belief or face serious jail time. The DOJ were showing every sigh of keeping on finding charges until they put Aaron away for a long time, or he agreed to a plea bargain that compromised his beliefs. Either way he would not be able to continue to fight for what he believed in. The people who can hold onto a dream under that level of pressure are rare, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela being modern examples.

     

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    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 6:57am

    Re: Tinfoil hat time - who talked to the Feds?

    Here is a piece that contradicts your speculations (note that I'm not trying to take sides or be an ass, but simply pointing to a contradicting piece I stumbled upon in 20 minutes after reading this comment):

    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/swartz-death-fuels-debate-over-computer-crime

    Elliot Peters, Swartz's attorney, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the case "was horribly overblown" because JSTOR itself believed that Swartz had "the right" to download from the site. Swartz was not formally affiliated with MIT, but was a fellow at nearby Harvard University. MIT maintains an open campus and open computer network, Peters said. He said that made Swartz's accessing the network legal.

    JSTOR's attorney, Mary Jo White — formerly the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan — had called the lead Boston prosecutor in the case and asked him to drop it, said Peters, also a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who is now based in California.

     

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    You will find even copyright apologists such as Lawrence Lessig saying that while sharing mankind's knowledge is a good thing, it is still up to each and every copyright holder to make this decision (not for the likes of Aaron Swartz, or any other pirate, however well meaning).

    This is why he created Creative Commons - to make it easier for people to share their work (to the extent they were comfortable with), but without making any value judgement about copyright itself - save that it is the law, to be obeyed, with infringers liable for damages.

    Ask Mike Masnick. I think you'll find even he believes copyright is essential.

    Only fringe idiots and psychopaths promulgate crazy ideas that copyright might not be as sacrosanct as any other human right.

     

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    nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: Tinfoil hat time - who talked to the Feds?

    And from that same article:

    MIT, the other party that Swartz allegedly wronged, was slower to react. The university eventually took a neutral stance on the prosecution, Peters said. But he said MIT got federal law enforcement authorities involved in the case early and began releasing information to them voluntarily, without being issued a subpoena that would have forced it to do so.


    Not unlike how some ISP's will turn over user data to anyone who asks without a subpoena.

    This really needs to stop. The whole point of having court orders is to protect you from excessive actions of rogue law enforcement. It is a right to refuse such a request until a warrant of some kind is presented.

    If MIT started providing information to the Feds voluntarily - then this should not be considered a neutral stance.

     

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    Matthew A. Sawtell, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:38am

    Waiting for the Conspriracy Theorists...

    Given the minor firestorm that is coming out of this, I am waiting to see what conspiracy theories are generated on this event (i.e. He did not kill himself, but was murdered by [fill in the blank]) - to really see if this event has 'some legs' to travel into something permanent in our culture or not.

     

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    Janey, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:44am

    just like dotcom...

    The government won't look bad except to geeks, that's the problem. The same dinosaur senators will get re-elected, and little will change. Hollywood will continue to buy them off.

    Look at what a total farce the case against Kim Dotcom has turned into. Failures on multiple levels! But ask the average citizen... they won't know. They've been spoon fed "piracy is stealing. downloading is wrong. obey, citizen" by Hollywood for ages. That's who I blame.. that's why we have shitty bills like the CFAA in place. Hollywood influence propping up their failing business model by paying off legislators. It's absolutely disgusting.
    It's no wonder businesses are setting up shop elsewhere. Our government policies are going to ruin the tech industry in the US. Most of it stemming from some rich jerks in southern California demanding that their business model be protected.

    RIP Aaron. Fight the good fight, everyone. Information needs to be free.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    DCX2, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    The reason is that good people are rarely in positions of power because they do not seek to exploit others. This means the minority of bad people take the power that was left on the table and use it for their own personal gain.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    So what are the laws used against Aaron and how could we change them?

    How to make laws that have lower rates of abuse?

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    DCX2, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    it is still up to each and every copyright holder to make this decision

    And the info that Mr. Swartz "pirated" (you did imply he was a pirate when you said "or any other pirate") - was this info publicly available? For the first case - yes, PACER documents are public domain, so the copyright holder has already made the decision. For the second case, JSTOR didn't want anything to do with the case - so the copyright holder also made THAT decision, as well.

    So...what was your point, again?

     

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  37.  
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    nasch (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    Who are you and how did you hack Crosbie Fitch's account?

     

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  38.  
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    DCX2, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:21am

    Remembering others harassed by the Feds

    This reminded me of another person who committed suicide while under investigation by the Feds. Dr. Bruce Ivins, allegedly the lone actor for the Anthrax attacks in 2001. No one could prove that he did it, though, and especially troubling is that he didn't have the equipment to make the kind of spores that were mailed, and couldn't possibly have made them in the quantity required without being noticed at work.

    Just to give you an idea of how the Feds roll - they offered his son $2.5 million and "the sports car of your choice" if he would implicate his father. They showed pictures of Anthrax victims to his daughter, telling her "your father did this". They would even follow his family while they went grocery shopping.

    Note this was after the FBI claimed and then vindicated Steven Hatfill as the man responsible. They harassed him mercilessly, too, trailing him so closely in a car that they ran over his foot once. They also video taped him during a job interview at a hotel; unsurprisingly, Mr. Hatfill didn't get the job. His treatment was so egregious that we taxpayers had to compensate him to the tune of $6 million to settle his lawsuit against the FBI.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 10:30am

    Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    Except he never committed a crime and JSTOR agreed to allowing him access to their database.

    Repeat the same "IT IS MORALLY AND LEGALLY WRONG TO STEAL" misinformation blurb all you want. It doesn't change the fact that Aaron was authorized to do everything that he did by the very institutions he was "stealing" from. Maybe it was inconsiderate, but being rude does not constitute jail time.

    Please educate yourself further on the matter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    seems like a coward's way out


    This incident was literally ruining his family financially. Whatever his reason is, he decided that him living and going to trial was far worse than him simply giving up.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 10:38am

    Re: Waiting for the Conspriracy Theorists...

    Oh that happened the minute that this was announced. The theory was that he wasn't accepting the plea deals of becoming the government's puppet and was simply done away with.

    I wouldn't take it seriously in this instance, it only trivializes the actual tragedy that has happened.

    I do feel that too many people have lost all faith in the government and I can't blame them in the very least if they look back on the very real instances of the government doing this exact same thing and extrapolate it to mean that they are continuing to do these horrible things in what seems to be a quest to destroy people's lives.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    There is no law governing what a prosecutor can and can't charge a suspect. The problem is that the government had infinite resources plus the court system on their side and Aaron was just a single man struggling to get by.

    I can't think of any way to change this besides having a third party being able to have some say on court matters.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 10:40am

    Re: Remembering others harassed by the Feds

    This happens all of the time, too. Fighting against the government at their own game only leads to tears and defeat.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    Yes, Crosbie got hacked here. Bizarre.

    At any rate, I would, in general, suggest caution in politicizing the death of this brilliant young man; it won't look good.

     

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  45.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:09pm

    Very very sad, such a brilliant mind.

    "But seeing that little kid sitting there was still really surprising."

    Hell 26 is still a little kid in the grand scheme of things. We will never know the great things he could have accomplished for humanity.

    Damn Chris Dodd in his ninja suit.

     

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  46.  
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    RonKaminsky (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    Thank you so much for sharing that knowledge with us!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:45pm

    "Just as I was hesitant to blame Lori Drew or Dharun Ravi for actions that were connected to later suicides of people they had taunted, it still feels wrong to say that the case itself led to his suicide, without more details."

    I think there's a slight difference between a couple of teenagers "being mean on the internet" and the Federal Government of the United States using every dirty trick they can to make your life miserable, harassing you non-stop while trying to bankrupt you and put you behind bars for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

     

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  48.  
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    JMT (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Re: Tinfoil hat time - who talked to the Feds?

    "JSTOR's attorney, Mary Jo White — formerly the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan — had called the lead Boston prosecutor in the case and asked him to drop it..."

    But that was only once they'd seen the scope of the DoJ's charges. I'm sure they were as surprised as anyone else, and tried to call off the dog so to speak. The question Ophelia has asked is who got the ball rolling in the first place?

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    Spoken like someone with little to no understanding of suicide.

     

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  50.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wrong to share mankind's knowledge

    No, not hacked. Just engaging in a bit of devil's advocacy, given the devils will be laying low, muttering "Out, damned spot!" no doubt.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:02pm

    Re:

    Oh, and my condolences for the death of your relative, Mike.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
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    Ophelia Millais (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re: Tinfoil hat time - who talked to the Feds?

    Thanks for that, sophisticatedjanedoe! That article (published last night) satisfies my curiosity as to whether JSTOR was actually opposed to the criminal indictment. Apparently they were opposed and took what action they could, behind the scenes, so I rescind that part of my speculation.

    I still think they could've done more to protest it, or to at least publicly indicate their opposition, even if this meant pissing off the publishers, but I suppose no one asked.

     

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  53.  
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    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Tinfoil hat time - who talked to the Feds?

    Personally I wouldn’t blame too hard neither JSTOR nor MIT for their initial overreaction of calling the authorities. I’ll try to explain why.

    Still blame because they could investigate and settle the matters themselves. In my child’s college (as in many others) the underage drinking and soft drugs are ongoing problems. Nonetheless, the college would fight tooth and nail not to hand out offenders to the police. They even don’t allow city police to patrol the campus.

    But you know what happens if you hand out a student who possesses some amount of marijuana to the law enforcement: possible jail time and ruined life. In the case with Aaron the university probably did not expect the Kafkaesque consequences.

    In this case it was more like calling the police in a domestic fight: in most cases policemen arrive and do what they are supposed to do: to calm down and scare the debaucher, maybe issue a $100 fine. None of the parties usually even think about pressing criminal charges.

    What happened after it became clear that things turned ugly — how MIT and JSTOR behaved — is much-much more important than the fact of the initial contact with the law. JSTOR had the guts to try to call it off, while MIT authorities cowardly closed their eyes (and even kissed government’s ass by voluntarily submitting evidence). And yes, both could and should have done more.

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    They were either helped by some external factor

    Everyone is virtually guaranteed to have someone they can identify who would be harmed by their suicide (most people more than they will initially think of). That does not mean that this factor occurring to them is sufficient to stop them or entirely absent from those who do commit the act. Indeed, in murder/suicide cases, the murder victim is sometimes this factor and the person committing suicide opts to remove the factor rather than alter their plans.

    There is still the resolution of the conflict and the summoning of the necessary willpower to choose the life of suffering that the suicidal sees before them over causing harm to others, even those close to them.

    I know this from first hand experience. I spent at least five minutes a single motion away from the final act, which I had planned out rather carefully to avoid any chance of survival. It is not an easy decision to stop, even with that additional factor.

    [It is worth noting that most depressed persons discount this factor, which is why reaching out to them and demonstrating caring about them is so useful in combating depressive thoughts. The point is that the lure of escape is still powerful, even with this factor in the equation.]

     

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  55.  
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    nasch (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You fight back by living long and living well

    Everyone is virtually guaranteed to have someone they can identify who would be harmed by their suicide (most people more than they will initially think of).

    Some depressed people feel worthless and feel they have nothing to offer anyone, and that those around them would be better off without them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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