Aaron Swartz, 1986 – 2013

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Computer activist Aaron H. Swartz is dead at 26. Swartz co-authored RSS 1.0, worked with reddit and founded, a campaign that successfully ran against the Internet censorship bills SOPA/PIPA.

His parents and partner lay part of the blame of his tragic suicide on misguided and overzealous officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT who wanted to bring him down for downloading millions of articles from JSTOR.

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.

Aaron is survived by his parents Robert and Susan Swartz, his younger brothers Noah and Ben, and his partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman.

Aaron’s funeral will be held on Tuesday, January 15 at Central Avenue Synagogue, 874 Central Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois 60035. Further details, including the specific time, will be posted at, along with announcements about memorial services to be held in other cities in coming weeks.

Remembrances of Aaron, as well as donations in his memory, can be submitted at

While we understand that many of the older generation at the US Attorney do not get the Internet, the least they could do is to step aside as more intelligent minds work with it and develop it to its full potential. Aaron’s prosecution, to any reasonable mind, was simply absurd. Alas, today deep shame lies at the doors of MIT; they have no excuse.

Our condolences go to the parents and partner of Aaron. Aaron’s fight against SOPA allows all of us today a free Internet. It’s a Starry, Starry Night tonight for all those who still do not understand that Aaron “tried to set them free. They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they never will…

Lawrence Lessig on the case.

Friends Remember Aaron Swartz.

Aaron on How to Get a Job Like Mine.

Update January 13, 2013: MIT’s responds: MIT, home for some of the smartest people on Planet Earth responds by ordering “a thorough analysis” of the “complex events of the last two years.” Two years where they sat on their hunches and refused to consider the very simple case despite the calls of those in their own community!

via huffingtonpost