“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.”
– Aaron Swartz 1986-2013
Swartz, 26, was widely praised for his efforts to make information freely available online. Frustrated by the high cost of accessing scholarly journals, he allegedly stole millions of academic articles from the nonprofit online database JSTOR by breaking into computer networks at M.I.T. A reporter for The New York Times called him “a wizardly programmer” and an “Internet folk hero.” The Wall Street Journal said his alleged theft of academic journals was considered “a Robin Hood-like stunt.”
Mr. Swartz’s family is convinced that what they believe was an overzealous government prosecution played a role in his death.
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” they wrote in a statement published on the Web. “It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”
After calling the prosecution of Swartz “a grotesque miscarriage of justice” and “a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for,” Anonymous outlined its list of goals under a section labeled “Our wishes:”
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.
Hundreds of academics have begun tweeting links to their copyright-protected research as a protest in Swartz’s honor, using the hastag #pdftribute.
Links scraped from Twitter posts featuring the hastag are being aggregated at Pdftribute.net.