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[liberationtech] Tragic News: Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Shava Nerad shava23 at gmail.com
Sun Jan 13 08:23:00 PST 2013


This is what I understand of Aaron's action.

First, to be clear, JSTOR settled with Aaron last summer.

Aaron was trying to raise consciousness around their model.  JSTOR does not
pay out a penny to the author or the author's host institution.  They do
not pay royalties to the research funders - often the taxpayer, so maybe
you and me.  In other circumstances this would make the work public domain.

The only money goes to the paper journal publisher.  That is the firewall
consortium JSTOR represents.

That is the message Aaron meant to amplify with what he likely saw as
political/ethical art performance civil disobedience.

Personally I think if he had not been on federal radar for organizing
SOPA/PIPA nothing more would have come from it as a Harvard-connected white
academic of a certain status.

But as it is, he faced seven figures in damages and three decades in hard
time even after he settled with JSTOR.

This is the way my family has observed activists attempted to be
neutralized by the immune system of the federal government since Eugene
Debs.  I have three generations of witness.

My instinct is that when you see resources expended out of proportion, look
for the proportionate end.  Aaron was not being chilled for his potential
in copying files, I suspect.  He just handed them something for which he
could be charged.

We can't let it go without response just because it is classic and
chronic.  I am organizing a vigil at 1 Courthouse in Boston 2pm Tuesday,
probably small, and we'll follow on from that at MIT.

Federal Prosecutor Ortiz does not seem like a monster in general, and there
is hope for some good nonviolent ends out of this.

Feedback welcome.

Yrs,
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