Aaron Swartz, RIP
Like most in the tech community, I found out about Aaron Swartz‘s death last Saturday morning and have been in mourning ever since.
Despite his young age, Aaron was a great contributor to the internet. If you use the internet today—and plan to do so tomorrow and beyond—you can thank him. I’m not going to go into his many accomplishments because numerous web sites have discussed them in detail. All I want to do is point one thing that’s making me see red when ignorant, lazy people comment on articles about the US federal hacking (BTW, it pains me to use the term hacking in this sense, but too many people don’t know the difference between hacking and cracking) charges against him: He downloaded ACADEMIC ARTICLES, most of which were written by academic researchers funded by PUBLIC dollars (and not just US public dollars), that were LEGALLY accessible to him. He did not drop a Trojan horse onto some unsuspecting network to steal credit card numbers or military secrets. He did not do anything that deserved a jail sentence, let alone 35 years. JSTOR, the victim, declined to press charges because it’s run by people who have COMMON SENSE and aren’t driven by political ambition.
And remember SOPA? Well, Aaron had a hand in defeating that bit of idiocy, too.