Monday, January 14, 2013

RSS inventor kills himself after copyright political persecution

A. Swartz campaigning against copyright tyranny
(cc Daniel J. Sieradski)
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is to blame, according to the family of the victim, for the suicide of Aaron Swartz, 26, who, among other things, co-invented the RSS feed that we use so often these days.

Swartz was a dedicated activist for open access and open source, taking part at the tender age of 15 in the launch of the creative commons license format. As Wikipedian he was critical of the arrogance of Jimbo Wales, who famously claimed that all the open encyclopedia was created by a petty club of enthusiasts, demonstrating with facts how wrong Wales was (and is - never read any retraction and his claim is still often quoted, wrongly). 

He was crucial in the struggle against copyright madness legislation in the USA, founding Demand Progress, which fought against the SOPA/PIPA acts a few years ago.

As Internet activist, he championed the cause of open access by means arguably illegal, sharing online thousands of articles from MIT-owned publicator JSTOR. The publication did not push charges but MIT and Massachusetts state prosecutors did bringing Swartz to a very difficult emotional situation. 

He faced up to as much as 35 years in prison if convicted (plus a hefty fine of $1 milion). He was found dead by hanging on January 11.


Update: Matt Stoller has today at Naked Capitalism a very interesting obituary that describes Aaron as a very comitted activist, who fought intensely not just in the issue of intellectual property robbery but also in many other fields, creating a website that lists every single person who dies in USA for lack of free health care. It is an obituary that reclaims Swartz as a radical liberal* (and not an anarchist) but it is anyhow a very interesting (and only punctually emotional) read on the many merits of this young activist and computer genius pushed to death by the Capitalism he (vainly) hoped to improve.

*Liberal: in the USA rough equivalent to socialist or socialdemocrat

Update: Details on the non-crimes that Swartz committed are discussed in detail at Unhandled: apparently he only used what was given to him freely... automating the process. He did not break any conditions of use which were non-existent altogether. He was just a scapegoat for copyright fascism, championed by MIT this time.

Also a memorial archive collection can be found at the Internet Archive.

1 comment:

  1. Really sad that such a gifted individual died so young. Knowledge should be free.


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