- Flickr/Creative Commons
“Aaron didn’t commit suicide, he was killed by the government,” Aaron Swartz‘s tearful father said this morning at a funeral service for the Highland Park prodigy, who co-invented RSS technology as a 14-year-old and was a founder of Reddit.
Swartz hanged himself last Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. He was 26 years old and facing a possible 35-year prison sentence for downloading millions of academic articles from JSTOR, using MIT access. JSTOR was not pressing charges (and subsequently decided to make its materials freely available), but MIT and the U.S. attorney proceeded with the case, reportedly in an attempt to demonstrate the dire consequences of Internet crime. Trial was set for later this year.
The government dropped its charges yesterday.
Described as a brilliant intellect and selfless striver for a better world, Swartz believed in open access to research materials. An activist who also battled restrictions on Internet freedom, he founded Demand Progress, which, in 2011, blocked the Stop Online Piracy Act.
A packed audience in the tiny Central Avenue Synagogue heard his father, Robert Swartz, wonder aloud why, while other technology pioneers cut corners to make their advances and are honored, Aaron was being prosecuted for something that wasn’t even “legally illegal.”
There’s an online memorial here.