Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz was a gifted computer programmer who was charged with a severe stack of offences that could have sent him to jail for 35 years and/or forced him to pay a $1 million fine, after he downloaded four million academic papers from JSTOR via MIT and shared them on. In fear of the excessive, draconian sentence he might have faced, he committed suicide. He was a staunch believer that knowledge – especially publicly-funded knowledge, such as that published in academic papers – ought to be free. The events surrounding his death have come to represent the harsh absurdity of modern copyright laws.

Before his death, Swartz had been involved in a number of important internet services. At the age of 12 he created a website called The Info Network, which was kind of a precursor to Wikipedia in that it was a “user-generated encyclopedia”. As a teenager, he was involved in the founding of Reddit. He helped to develop the RSS feed format, and was also involved in the technical infrastructure behind Creative Commons.