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The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz [video] (archive.org)
271 points by nullc on June 29, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 89 comments



This is the full 120 minute long documentary. It's a heavy watch, but interesting to both audiences familiar with the background and ones who are not.

In addition to the normal pay per view streaming on vimeo (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/internetsownboy/94238859), this film was also offered at an increased price under CC-By-NC-SA. I purchased a freely licensed copy and have placed it on archive.org allowing anyone to learn from it, share it with others, or build new works out of it without risk of prosecution and without going through US-only paywall.

The official site for the film is at http://www.takepart.com/internets-own-boy and the there is a Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Internet%27s_Own_Boy:_The_S...


Thank You nullc. It's really tough to contribute something useful to the discussion about and around Aaron Schwartz. The best I can offer is a paper that I found a few hours ago. I haven't read it yet, but it was just released a few days ago. From what I can tell from the description quoted below by one of the authors, it may be good related research worth reading.

WEIS 2014: Experimental Measurement of Attitudes Regarding Cybercrime

http://weis2014.econinfosec.org/papers/GravesAcquistiAnderso...

> "Online activists appear to be treated much more harshly by prosecutors than equivalent street protesters; meanwhile online fraudsters are often treated more leniently than the traditional variety. Over two thousand mTurkers participated in six different between-subjects experiments to assess the seriousness or cybercrimes by type of data (directory vs medical info), scope 10 to 1,000,000 records) motivation (student, activist, profiteer) financial consequences, co-responsibility and whether the victim was a firm, a nonprofit or a government agency. Respondents saw more records as more sensitive than less; profiteers as much worse than students or activists; more expensive cases as more serious; that firms were less liable if servers were patched (but that the data were more sensitive in that case). In summary, participants recommend harsher sentences when cybercrimes involve more or more sensitive data, have costlier consequences, or are motivated by profit. This is much more rational than the reported behaviour of some prosecutors and judges."


I haven't gotten myself in the headspace to watch this yet, but perhaps also of interest for those who are is Quinn Norton's recent essay marking the release of the documentary: https://medium.com/message/the-internets-own-boy-c815ae07a41...

The first half of the piece is a bit of a confessional/elegy- personal, poignant, and a bit heartrending, especially for those who knew Aaron. The second half turns decidedly more polemic, but feels all the more important for the HN crowd (or anyone thinking about the future and the society we live in).

Aaron's death was tragic, yes, but it happened within a much (much) larger context of what feels like a waning in social justice and personal freedom around the world.

I've certainly been thinking a lot harder about it in the past year, and I hope others are as well.


Thanks for posting the video on archive.org. Ever since I read http://boingboing.net/2014/06/19/aaron-swartz-documentary-th..., I've been looking for a place to download the CC-licensed video. If I want to send money to the producers of the video, how should I do so? Buy a copy of the video from vimeo?


Yes, buying from Vimeo is probably the best way to support Brian and his colleagues.

(I am technically one of the "executive producers" but I don't make any money from it.)


I bought the video to support your team. Unfortunately it was geoblocked first and only available in SD. Please change that.


I live in a region where its geoblocked from purchasing this film.

Would love to support this film/work.


Here's a magnet link for torrent users:

magnet:?xt=urn:btih:6b1c1f8476d0604d98e4a9d3d3bbf4cd131e3326&dn=The+Internet%27s+Own+Boy+-+The+Story+of+Aaron+Swartz+%282014%29&tr=udp://tracker.openbittorrent.com:80/announce


Thank you.


The only thing I don't care for in all this is the deification of Swartz, as if he played no part in the dilemma he found himself in. That said, something need to be done about the prosecutors in this country, who overcharge and bend the law in way not intended.


The community isn't really deifying Swartz.

What you're seeing is the community making him into a martyr.

Martyrdom is a concept that is somewhat foreign or unexpected in American culture. Similar to the delusion that the country is somehow immune to totalitarianism, there exists a common assumption that martyrs, like dictators, only happen "in those other, less free countries".

The very nature of what it means for someone to be a martyr basically guarantees that people will react strongly. This is why they can be a unifying force ("we must ${dangerous_but_important_task} for ${martyr}!"). This is also why the more talented oppressors take steps to prevent martyrs such as having them "disappeared".

I see this situation as similar to the question of what to do with the medical data acquired from the Nazi camps. A good argument can be made for both sides, but in the end we should make use of the resources we have.

So if it takes some "deification" or get the larger community to finally wake up and do something about these prosecutors (and other related people), then I would suggest that any "deification" at least served an important purpose. Given that Swartz spent a lot of time and energy trying to get people to do just that (wake up and actually fight the "big" problems in our society), then... I suspect he would have approved for the same reason.


You need to look up the definition of martyr. He committed suicide, he was not killed. He was not persecuted for doing right, he was being prosecuted for doing wrong.


The film implies he was a victim and does not criticize his suicide, only the laws and people who drove him to kill himself. Martyrdom: "a display of feigned or exaggerated suffering to obtain sympathy or admiration."


This generation needs better martyrs.

As for waking up the community to do something? Which community? Certainly not this one. This community goes out of their way to elect their own oppressors and justifies the vilifying all those who on the other side prior to any election. Yet they have the gall to turn around and claim they are oppressed? Look, when you willingly, nigh joyfully, watch as they take over your healthcare you cannot then truly expect privacy can you? You cannot suddenly expect that they really care about you do you? Your just one wrong protest away from being in jail.

Hence the term slacktivist, which applies to most of those cheering Aaron on. Never walked a protest line in their life, but ooh they may have downloaded a song they didn't pay for.


Yep, clearly, the dumb Americans deserve everything that comes to them. Thank you for sharing your bold insights.


"when you willingly, nigh joyfully, watch as they take over your healthcare you cannot then truly expect privacy can you?"

I have no idea what you mean by this. Could you elaborate?


I think the community has reacted the way it has, because what Aaron did, downloading academic journals from a cabling closet, was both in the same context as things that many of us have done (Who hasn't, at one time or another scraped a few gigabytes of Academic Journals, and who hasn't, at University, spent a ton of time trapsing through campus in areas a helluva lot more locked down than where Aaron went), and, it was being done in pursuit of a noble goal, by someone who only had the best interests of others, and the internet at heart.

He was then mercilessly pursued, pushed to the point of financial ruin, and threatened with several decades of prison - by a prosecutor who seemingly had zero sense of right/wrong, even in the face of the supposed victim (JSTOR) indicating they had no desire to pursue this any further.

It was the sort of activity that when I went to school, would have merited a 3 day suspension, if that.


(Responding out of order)

> He was then mercilessly pursued, pushed to the point of financial ruin, and threatened with several decades of prison

He was not threatened with several decades in prison. Worst case, if he went to trial and lost, would have been something like 7 years. There was a plea bargain on the table that would have let him get off with a few months. His own lawyers say that if he rejected that and did go to trial, they thought the most likely outcome would be probation with no jail time.

It is possible that he thought he faced several decades between the time he found out about the indictment and the time he first talked to anyone who knows how the federal sentencing guidelines work and how the totals in indictments are so exaggerated that they make Hollywood accounting look realistic.

You can find a very detailed examination of the charges and the possible sentences in the two links given as references in this comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7004640

> (Who hasn't, at one time or another scraped a few gigabytes of Academic Journals, and who hasn't, at University, spent a ton of time trapsing through campus in areas a helluva lot more locked down than where Aaron went)

I traipsed a lot at Caltech. However, (1) I was a student there, and (2) if I was asked to stop because I was causing trouble, I would (to not do so would have violated the Honor System). In Swartz's case, (1) he had no connection to MIT, and (2) he did NOT stop even when it became clear that MIT did not want him to continue, and continued to the point of getting MIT temporarily cut off from JSTOR.

He should have done his downloading from Harvard, where he had JSTOR access due to his position as a research fellow there, instead of sneaking around at MIT and evading their attempts to get him to stop.


July 19, 2011

"If convicted on these charges, SWARTZ faces up to 35 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million."

http://www.justice.gov/usao/ma/news/2011/July/SwartzAaronPR....


DOJ press releases greatly exaggerate the number of years when (1) dealing with multiple related charges, and (2) when dealing with defendants who do not have extensive criminal records.

Federal crimes are divided into groups, and multiple charges within a group are treated like a single charge for sentencing. So if X carries a 5 year sentence if you are convicted of X in isolation, and Y carries a 5 year sentence if you are convicted of Y in isolation, and they are in the same group, then if you are convicted of both X and Y together as the result of one set of facts, you get 5 years.

The press release for an indictment charging you with both X and Y will say 10 years. It ignores the grouping.

Sentencing also depends on factors like prior convictions. If X carries 5 years for a first time offender, but can get you 10 years if you are a repeat offender, the DOJ press release will say 10 years, even if you are first time offender and so cannot get more than 5 years.

For a detailed analysis of Swartz's indictment and what he was ACTUALLY facing, see these two Orin Kerr articles:

http://www.volokh.com/2013/01/14/aaron-swartz-charges

http://www.volokh.com/2013/01/16/the-criminal-charges-agains...


I think whoever just down voted you did you an injustice, so I bumped you back up. I may totally disagree with you on the righteousness of the prosecutor's behavior, and the seriousness of what they were trying to charge Aaron with - but I really appreciate the evidence and information you bring to the discussion.


I think the DOJ should issue more realistic press releases when they announce an indictment. They obviously know at that point what charges they are bringing, so should be able to easily take into account grouping.

They also know who they are charging and what facts they are alleging as the basis of those charges, so should be able to take into account things like prior convictions, how much damage was done, and other things that affect the sentence under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Their press releases should be designed to accurately inform the public about the case, not make them look good by making it look like they have indicted someone from the most wanted list.


I think a parent poster summarized it well - with a complete understanding of the facts, federal sentencing guidelines, and the mechanisms of the justice system (which I appreciate you bringing to the table), it might be the case that the prosecutorial system was not completely undeniably insanely evil, and just plain old ordinary evil.

But, nobody will ever convince me that charging a freedom advocate like Aaron with federal felonies, and driving him to financial ruin for scraping academic journals from a data port in a cabling closet on the MIT campus was anything but "evil."


> He was not threatened with several decades in prison.

Is there any way we can avoid rehashing this discussion every time anything related to Aaron Swartz is posted to HN?

The problem seems to be that the conduct of the prosecutors was just on the cusp of being reasonable to describe them as comic book super-villains. So you get one contingent of posters demanding they be locked in Arkham Asylum and the other contingent insisting that is an exaggeration and they're only regular ordinary villains, and it just goes back and forth like that indefinitely and derails any hope of a productive discussion about what can be done about it.


Probably not. Look at what happens when these comments come up on Reddit: someone says "Swartz was facing a 50 year sentence", and then someone else says "no, no, that's not accurate, it was 35 years", and unless someone like 'tzs comes along to explain how sentencing actually works, that's where the conversation stands.

The problem isn't pedantry. It's that the sentencing parameters of Swartz's case have become an urban legend.


It seems to be some mention of the urban legend, then pedantry. In particular, the sentencing parameters of Swartz's case are nuanced. The statutory maximum number of years is different than what a defendant was likely to have been sentenced to by a court which is different than what the prosecutors announced in their public statements which is different than than what a plea bargain might have entailed for a person willing to admit to a felony. So somebody mentions one number and somebody else comes in saying that number is inappropriate and we should really look at this different number and a third person picks a third number and we all start pedantically defending the respective positions using all manner of minor details that make no progress toward a solution.

It all seems like talking past each other. Is there anyone who sincerely believes that sentencing and plea bargaining are not broken? Is there any legitimate reason why statutory maximum sentences should be an order of magnitude or more longer than typical actual sentences, rather than more clearly delineating what conduct constitutes a serious felony as distinct from a misdemeanor? What are the practical ways of reducing the coerciveness of plea bargaining so that there isn't so much pressure for a defendant not to demand his day in court, or to make it so that doing so does not induce bankruptcy for ordinary people? These questions are more interesting than discussing whether a particular prosecutor said a particular thing on a particular day for the seventeenth time.


I didn't say that he was likely to serve several decades of prison, I'm saying that he was threatened with several decades of prison.

I'm also not suggesting that everything Aaron did was squeaky clean.

I'm just saying, as is pretty much every other person who I've ever spoken to about this event, is that this was not a "13 felony count" type of activity - particularly after JSTOR said they no longer wished to pursue it. The whole "Felon" element really weighed down on Aaron, possibly more so than the financial ruin that he underwent when the government decided to keep pursuing this. I've often wondered whether he worried about bringing his family down as well - as the cost of defending just kept going on and on...


> I didn't say that he was likely to serve several decades of prison, I'm saying that he was threatened with several decades of prison.

He wasn't threatened with several decades of prison. The numbers in DOJ press releases when multiple related charges are involved are way off, because they do not take into account how related charges interact at sentencing. They also do not take into account the actual defendant, and use the maximum for each individual crime that it is possible for someone to theoretically get, even if to get that maximum requires that the defendant be a repeat offender.

The following two links, from Orin Kerr, explain how this actually works, and also go into details on whether or not the charges the prosecutors picked were appropriate.

http://www.volokh.com/2013/01/14/aaron-swartz-charges/

http://www.volokh.com/2013/01/16/the-criminal-charges-agains...


One key quote from the second post:

"I think the proper level of punishment in this case would be based primarily on the principle of what lawyers call “special deterrence.” In plain English, here’s the key question: What punishment was the minimum necessary to deter Swartz from continuing to try to use unlawful means to achieve his reform goals?"

The problem with this is, what happens if (as I think was probably true in Swartz' case), the answer is "none"? I.e, what if there is no level of punishment that will deter the person, because he believes that achieving his reform goals is important enough to outweigh any level of punishment?

In other words, the whole theory of punishment that Kerr is describing here can't really be applied as he applies it to a case of civil disobedience. The whole point of civil disobedience is that, to the person doing it, any punishment is unjust, because the law itself is unjust. Given that, trying to figure out what is an "appropriate" level of punishment is pointless.


what if there is no level of punishment that will deter the person

Taking arguendo the question you highlight:

By cruel empirical evidence, we know that a six-month jail sentence was sufficiently effective enough that it made Swartz end his life, to say nothing of merely stopping his attempts to liberate the JSTOR archives.

Given that, a few days in jail would have likely taken the shine off of his activism and made him realize he wasn't cut out for this kind of thing.

Of course this can't be mathematically proven, but nothing involving humans is. It's one reason for increasing sentences for repeat offenders: the justice system is experimentally trying to find out how much punishment you need to get the message to stop doing that.


a six-month jail sentence was sufficiently effective enough that it made Swartz end his life, to say nothing of merely stopping his attempts to liberate the JSTOR archives

Well, if we're taking this point of view, what stopped his attempts to liberate the JSTOR archives was the private settlement he reached with JSTOR, before he knew he was facing any jail time at all. The jail time was completely superfluous in that respect.

That said, Kerr's article makes a comment in a somewhat similar vein to yours:

"[T]his is one of the puzzles about Swartz. On one hand, he was deeply committed to civil disobedience and to the moral imperative of breaking unjust laws. On the other hand, he seems to have had his soul crushed by the prospect that he would spend time in jail. This is an unusual combination."

However, I still think the "deterrence" theory of punishment doesn't quite fit a case of civil disobedience. Increased punishment for repeat offenders assumes that the offenders have no reason other than narrow self-interest for violating the law--in other words, they commit crimes because they think it benefits them, so making it not benefit them should, at some point, get them to stop committing crimes. But someone who breaks the law for the greater good is not doing it for their own benefit to begin with.


" by a prosecutor who seemingly had zero sense of right/wrong, even in the face of the supposed victim (JSTOR) indicating they had no desire to pursue this any further.'

Aaron didn't know the difference between right and wrong either. He snuck into a closet and copied proprietary data.

If I was working for a startup, copied all of their customer data, and released it to the public (because I thought it should be free)..should I be prosecuted?


He snuck into a closet and copied proprietary data.

No, he copied data that we, the public, already paid for once, but are being forced to pay again for access to because the government has not forced organizations like JSTOR (and Elsevier and other journal publishers) to retire their outdated business model. The data itself is not "proprietary"; it doesn't contain trade secrets or personal information or anything like that. It's scientific papers that were paid for by the public. The fact that every single paper is not on a public website like arxiv.org where anyone can read it is an outrage.

That said, I think Swartz knew perfectly well that he was breaking the law; but he thought it was worth doing so to fix the outrage I just described.


I cannot get around the fact that he was offered leniency (6 months in a low security prison) in return for a plea bargain.

He rejected that deal, opting instead for a trial in which prosecutors would have been forced to justify their pursuit of him.

Fair enough - noble and principled if a little foolhardy.

Then he committed suicide.

Given the choice of ending my life or taking 6 months in jail; I know which is the more mentally stable option to take.


You are ascribing your own situation to the problem and pretending it is the same.

Everyone thinks they are completely reasonable, but the fact is our brain convinces us we are even when we are not.

Unless you've actually been someone else, how can you know what it is like?


Just to be clear; your assertion is that no human being make a reasonable or educated guess about their behaviour in a situation that is unfamiliar?

That is your assertion?...because it is nonsense if it is. As humans we make effective, educated guesses about unfamiliar scenarios all of the time.

I also don't physically need to be charged with wire fraud to know that I would not take my own life over it leaving behind my children. Children, if convicted today, I would be able to see again before Christmas.

However - if you want to get [really] meta over the subject then your logic defeats itself.

Unless you have actually been me how can you know that I am not completely accurate in my assessment of myself?

Your stated position has rendered you unable to disagree with me. Since you are not me.


The irony of this complete garble of a comment trying to convince people that we are always reasonable is quite amazing.

Have you done that on purpose?

Anyway, in the off chance you aren't intending to do an awesome display of irony:

- People can be reasonable, but they are bad at knowing when they are and aren't.

- Empathy is not applying someones situation to yourself, but instead applying yourself to someones situation (This is non-commutative).

- Empathy can help reason but is not required by it.

I'm not really suggesting anything controversial so I'm surprised at your adversarial responses. It's almost like we are just stuck in a "Someone is wrong on the internet" loop here.


So, ultimately, your assertion is that people cannot make educated guesses about their behaviour in unfamiliar situations?

OK. The world is awash with people receiving a criminal sentencing and then killing themselves. It's unfortunate we don't have any data whatsoever to disprove that...

Well done, Sir. You win the internet today. Aaron Schwarz taking his own life instead of facing a maximum of 6 months in prison is completely normal.


> So, ultimately, your assertion is that people cannot make educated guesses about their behaviour in unfamiliar situations?

I didn't say that at all, but you do love a strawman don't you.

> Aaron Schwarz taking his own life instead of facing a maximum of 6 months in prison is completely normal.

Plea bargain of 6 months + felony charge was turned down. He was facing ~35 years + felony charge. But don't let the facts stop your rightousness ;-)

> It's unfortunate we don't have any data whatsoever to disprove that...

But we do: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide#Psychosocial_states

You'll note that: Hopelessness, loss of pleasure, depression and anxiousness all increase the likelihood of suicide. It's pretty reasonable for us to assume Aaron was feeling at least one of those. Again, lets not let fact or data get in the way of your "informed" opinion.


Oh dear -

1. Misunderstanding of felony charges are stated and subsequently sentenced. Check.

2. Misunderstanding of compared suicide rates to criminal sentencing. Check.

3. Comnplete misreading of my sarcasm reagrding lack of data. Check.

You are just emabrassing yourself, honestly.

You could have every data point in the world suggesting the factors that contribute to suicidal feeling.

None of it proves criminal sentencing results in the normative behaviour of suicide. Again we are returning to common sense, we know that criminals are not killing themselves on masse.

This is getting stupid now. You are clearly not trolling and genuinely think you are on to something.

Suicide is not normal neither is it normal for anyone to kill themselves in response to the potential of being found guilty.

It happens, but it is not normal.

Please feel free to continue arguing. It is interesting to watch someone logically eat their own argument.


Please explain 1. He was facing 35 years (if he lost) and would be labeled a felon losing his right to vote and aspirations of working in politics. How is that misunderstood?

Other than being a smug cunt, you haven't actually said anything that refuted what I said. I've given you data and reason to explain why someone would kill themselves in a similar situation but you are caught up on your own definition of normal (being 50.1%) which I also refuted earlier. So I'm going to go with my earlier statement: You are just a smug cunt, and you enjoy it.

I wasn't trolling no, but I was/am clearly being trolled. Well done.


Oh dear moody moody moody.

1. He was facing 6 months for a plea bargain. Several other lawyers have already commented here how felony charges are listed sequentially as maximum sentencing but that is not how years are applied. It is now becoming boring to have to school you.

2. You have given absolutely fuck all data to support anything of interest. Please provide the data that says people facing a criminal trial have a tendanecy to kill themselves. Let's forget "normal" etc. Just a tendency will be sufficient.

3. I am smug. I am smug because a prick like you decided to try and nitpick my comment and you embarrased yourself.

4. I didn't troll. You are just wrong. Suicide is not normal. Schwarz killing himself was not normal. The end.



You are clearly a moron. Not just wrong but an out and out moron.

Posting a link to a story from the Daily Mail is the argumentative equivalent of shooting yourself in the face.

Widely regarded as the worst newspaper in the United Kingdom. Please don't respond. You are seriously embarrassing yourself.


The same information is in the documentary, and wikipedia. And actually happened in real life, regardless of where you source the information from.


...and how has that backed up anything you have said?

I already know Schwarz killed himself. I already know the prosecutor was zealous.

So, either post the aggregated data that shows accused parties kill themselves prior to trial or simply STFU. I am not joking it really is embarrassing for you.


> So, either post the aggregated data that shows accused parties kill themselves prior to trial or simply STFU.

Is that how debate works, you posit a random ultimatum or else discussion over. Interesting, explains a lot though.

Schwartz and James, both killed themselves while under prosecution. James specifically called out the prosecution (and his impending conviction) as the reason for his suicide (in a suicide note).

An honest question, do you think it just random chance that two people facing similar charges by the same prosecutor both killed themselves?


I couldn't care if the prosecutor killed them with his bare hands. You disagreed that suicide is abnormal.

Post the data that suggests suicide is normal and stop running from your earlier statements.


> You disagreed that suicide is abnormal.

Well that was actually in the other thread, this one I just said you lacked empathy to understand the situation, I've now pointed out someone in exactly the same position made exactly the same choice. So even if you lack empathy, you can understand it just from a logical point of view: "Hmm, pressure from prosecutors can make people kill themselves. Interesting phenomena".

Back to the "normal" arguement: I've posted that in the context of a prosecution that was handing down a sizable sentence (Probably not as high as 35) but not as low as 6 months (which is what you said), Suicide is a fairly understandable outcome. I gave you the links in wikipedia, and showed you two cases where it happened.

Now is normal == understandable?


I understand the situation.

The sentence offered was exactly 6 months. So it was quite as low as 6 months. It was 6 months.

Suicide is not an understandable outcome. It was rash, irrational and abnormal. There is nothing more to discuss. You are simply wrong. the best part is, you know it as well. We both know you know it.

You showed me two cases where it happened. I can show you over 100,000 cases this year where it didn't happen. I can show you millions of cases where it didn't happen. I can show you 10's of millions of cases where it didn't happen. Literally, every single prisoner in prison didn't kill themselves.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/uk/06/prisons/html/nn2...


I've just watched this with my roommates, and I think we're in consensus that Aaron's beliefs, to make the Public Domain actually public and universally share information so that we may be push forward the progress of humanity, are undoubtedly correct.

What I would like to know at this time is how to make Aaron's beliefs a reality. What can I do? What can my roommates do? What can anyone do?

Ideally, I also don't think that this is a zero sum game. We can all be winners. I'd like to believe that we can all be winners.


What can I do?

The first thing you need to decide is, do you want to work within the law, and try to change the system from the inside, or do you think the system is so corrupt that it can't be changed from the inside, so the only option is to take it down from the outside? Swartz appears to have believed that the second option was the only option, at least in the case under discussion. Do you agree?

I'd like to believe that we can all be winners.

I think you're underestimating the greed and the ego of the people who currently have "ownership" rights to so much information that was supposedly the property of the public, since we paid for it being produced in the first place. Those people are not going to give up their cash cow willingly, and if they are forced to give it up, they will not feel like they are "winners". If that were going to happen, it would have happened years ago, once it became obvious to anyone with half a brain that the Internet was a viable means of distribution for information that belongs to the public--that, for example, scientific papers belong on arxiv.org, not locked up in some journal that charges exorbitant fees for access.

In other words, when you're up against greed and ego, thinking that "we can all be winners" is a recipe for failure. The people who are keeping this system propped up need to lose. Anything less won't achieve the goal.

Or to put it still another way: the ones making it a zero-sum game are the publishers trying to hang on to their cash cow, not us.


Here's one option:

http://legalinformatics.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/operation-a...

http://www.plainsite.org/asymptote/

Another is to write to your representatives in Congress demanding accountability for prosecutors and Stephen Heymann in particular. The web forms actually do get tallied by interns and closely monitored by staffers when there's a spike.


I appreciate your suggestion, but I feel like there's more to do, and I'd like to do more.


I think Aaron would have advocated--as the movie aptly points out--a re-thinking of one's approach to life in a way that involves more political activism than we're typically used to, versus a one-time reaction. There's a wide range of political issues for people to make their voices heard on.

Directly related to Aaron's interests, I'm suing the Courts over PACER and other related issues. See http://www.plainsite.org/dockets/29himg3wm/california-northe... , where document 23, the First Amended Complaint, is the main one to read. If anyone wants to file an amicus brief/write a letter to the judge in the case and/or the Administrative Office of the Courts, this would be a good time to do it.


You have excellent suggestions. I will try to follow up.

A strategy that I am taking is the promotion of Computer Science education and the use of open source technology. Computer Science needs to be cheaper, easier and more attractive to learn. We need more teachers, better communication between the school and the office, and more girls studying CS.


"Hackers for right, we are one down, we have lost one of our own." - TimBL


I made a timeline of Swartz' life http://newslines.org/aaron-swartz/ Feel free to update if you see something missing.


I assume something's wrong with him attending Stanford in 2000 (or being born in 1986).

He didn't go to college when he was 14/15, did he?


Thanks for the tip.


Some links to relevant legal proceedings / profiles:

USA v. Swartz: http://www.plainsite.org/dockets/my5tdot8/massachusetts-dist...

Stephen P. Heymann: http://www.plainsite.org/attorneys/united-states-department-...

Think Computer Foundation et al v. Administrative Office of the United States Courts et al: http://www.plainsite.org/dockets/29himg3wm/california-northe...


"Your activity looks suspicious to us. Please prove that you're human."


We get a lot of scraping activity from China, Russia, and Europe. You probably have an IP from somewhere we've seen actual suspicious activity from. Sorry!


I get that message from within Australia... we don't even have the bandwidth to scape a website ;-)


this HN's bot sniffer?


Aaron's Law was just recently introduced:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr2454#overview

There is a really great talk by Lessig about the legal issues surrounding the case at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HAw1i4gOU4#t=44m39. After seeing the debate around the movie, this quote really stuck out at me:

"He was a citizen who felt a moral obligation to do what he believed was right. And if he is guilty here it is because he acted on that view of what was right. And we need to act to respect that act of citizenship. To think beyond what Aaron did, to think beyond what was done to him, to think about the ideals he gave everything in his life to, and to make those ideals the law."


While i believe in the underlying vision that drove Swartz to his actions, the person that killed Swartz was Swartz himself.

Prosecutors overcharge and bend the law all the time, still we don't see mass suicides from the "victims". Swartz obviously had some other unrelated issues that drove him to this extreme.


What is the suicide rate for people facing felony prosecution?

What is their typical socio-economic status? Is that a factor?

My bet is, you don't know the answer to either of those questions, so the "obviously" in your statement is misplaced.


Its clear by reading his older articles about his reddit past and such that he had some trouble adjusting to a "normal" live. He did not seem like an emotionally stable person to me, even before his suicide.


Your in depth analysis of his emotional state through blog posts?

Exactly what is a "normal" life? and what adjustments are required to achieve it? What kind of trouble did he have with those adjustments?


Normal life is not suicide.

I say that as someone who has talked two people out of suicide. Suicide not a normal emotional, biological or mental state for any living creature.

What exactly is wrong with judging someone through a large canon of blog posts?

I am sure you would have no trouble judging the mental state of the Westboro Baptist Church members through their blog posts.


So are you making a value judgement or an empirical judgement?

How many people would have to commit suicide (per capita) for it to be considered "normal"? Does the same measure apply to other "fringe" choices in life, Alcohol, drugs, sexuality, etc?

If it isn't based on numbers, then you are just making a value judgement... And if one doesn't share your values, they can simply disagree with you.


50.1% of all living things for it to be biologically normal.

50.1% of human beings for it to be emotionally normal.

But; let's also add your comment is nonsense. I don't need empirical data to state suicide is not normal.

I am a human being, that is alive and capable of reason.

The HN propensity for immediately crying foul at lack of empirical evidence is almost child like.

Are you that incapable of applying reasoned judgement to your daily life?

On another tangent; Why do you think sexuality is a choice? That statement alone shows you are not equipped to discuss the issue with any thing resembling common sense or informed opinion.

You are just tossing out a bunch of arbitrary control questions that mean nothing.


Sexuality is a choice, but isn't always, I can choose different forms of it, are you denying that choice? Are you saying because some people can't choose others are not allowed to?

By your definition of "Normal" Black people aren't normal... Nor are white people... erm.. Nor are Indian... or asian... Or christians, or especially not athiests... As there aren't 50.1% of any of them (Compared with the entire species/race). You've reduced "Normal" to "Human"

Or perhaps we could admit, that "Normal" is itself a value judgement, and based on social stigma and culture?

> I am a human being, that is alive and capable of reason.

No, you are clearly a Judeo-christian pushing his "beliefs" on other people pretending it is reason. Suicide is accepted in some cultures (modern and historic). But clearly not yours. And admittedly not Aaron's either, but calling him abnormal for being distressed (and ultimately committing suicide) for being persecuted for something he thought was harmless/for the good, is a strange viewpoint in my mind (just as mine seems strange to you I suspect).

> That statement alone shows you are not equipped to discuss the issue with any thing resembling common sense or informed opinion.

Well clearly, given I'm arguing that your nebulous concept of 'normal' and 'common sense' are in fact flawed by your own definition.

But hey, it is much easier to dismiss an alternative point of view, than to internalise and understand it.

BTW: You don't have to be such a dick in your responses, just because what someone (myself in this instance) says something you don't agree with, doesn't mean you should attack and belittle them. While I am reaching for some intellectual high ground in this comment, your words were still hurtful.


You have misunderstood me. My point was sexuality is never a choice. Acting on impulse is a choice; suffering from impulse is not.

I suggest you go back and re-read what I have written before you embarrass yourself further.

I never brought race into the equation. In order for suicide to be considered the norm it would have be the de facto standard for living organisms. Roughly, 50.1% of all living creatures. I can cite 7 examples that back up my claim - Movement Respiration Sensitivity Growth Reproduction Excretion Nutrition

Common sense also tells us that suicide cannot be normal behaviour otherwise all biological organisms would eventually degrade to 0 lifeforms.

If my words are hurtful it is because time and time again we see posters on HN tossing out absolutely junk statements that they think are well-informed. When pressed they resort to an argumentative form of

Present [ALL] evidence [EVER] or I reject reasoned opinions.

Normally the follow us is something along the lines of

*Your [SOURCE/RESEARCH/DATA] is flawed because of [UTTERLY INTANGIBLE REASON].

There comes a time when, as a person and a member of society you have to accept that we are not living in a simulation but that the evidence in front of you is actually satisfactory.

Suicide is not normal. It was ludicrous and silly for you to toss out a random objection to my statement.


haha voted down for saying suicide is not normal.

Stay classy HN :-)


Perhaps accepting the normalized injustice and oppression within the society in which you were socialized is a precondition for emotional stability. Maybe that is why so few of us are willing to question it. Just a thought.


"Prosecutors overcharge and bend the law all the time"

sounds like that is acceptable to you because there isn't mass suicides you can link to.


thats not what i mean. Some people see the prosecutor as the person responsible for his death, and thats not correct in my view.


But what outcome are you aiming for with your comment?

The prosecutor does share some responsibility, as does Aaron, as does MIT, as does JSTOR, as does the general judicial system and environment that allowed this to happen.

Doing a drive by 'He only has himself to blame' style comment, is ignorant at best, and out right trolling at worst.


I'm wondering... has anyone really opened JSTOR and their equivalents to the world yet? appears no.

edit* there is not technology and science resource available for congressmen??? smh...


Apparently, everything Aaron downloaded is available at theinfo.org. Nobody has really done anything (apparent) with it. The site is down now, so maybe that is an indication this doc has inspired something in someone.


Can we all be good netizens and torrent rather than overload Archive servers? Not enough seeders right now.


torrents feel like they should be part of the browser. It seems odd we rely on ISPs to do local level caching, when we could actually do a lot of it ourselves. (Think how many streams of the world cup are floating around on the internet right now...)


Last mile bandwidth tends to be a lot more expensive than more centralized data center bandwidth— moving traffic out to the edge is just not very attractive in general.


I downloaded the ogg and even mplayer fails to play it without stuttering and even crashing at some frames. I don't think it's the bandwidth.


"The Startup Trying to Replace Congress With Software Is Running Two Candidates"

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7960110


40 min through is a pretty good tribute to his life, humanity, and values. 10/10 It takes a turn a focus on prosecutorial zeal afterwards. 6/10


I had a couple opportunities to talk with him, and being part of the early reddit community, I thought the first 40 mins were a good tribute to who he was.




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