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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Death of an Internet activist

Well, the government has claimed another victim. As you perhaps already know if you pay attention to Twitter or to sites such as Boing Boing, Internet inventor and activist Aaron Swartz has died.

Some of the better articles and tributes include Glenn Greenwald's and Tim Lee's.

I'm more conservative on matters of copyright than Swartz was. I'm well to the "left" of Congress -- I think it's absurd that everything written by Sinclair Lewis after 1923 remains under copyright. Lewis died in 1951.

But I'm more conservative on such matters than some of my friends. I support copyright for living authors, and recently dead ones. I've repeatedly said that Robert Anton Wilson fans should buy his books or check them out of the library, rather than simply obtaining pirated copies from the Internet.

But the lengths that the U.S. attorney's office went to in prosecuting Swartz is insane. JSTOR did not favor prosecuting Swartz, yet the prosecutor insisted on filing charges that could have brought a 35-year prison sentence. The prosecutor who targeted him, Carmen Ortiz, is rumored as a Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts. 

Swartz suffered from depression, so this is another sad story about a man with an illness who failed to get the help he needed. Yet his family clearly believes that the prosecutor's persecution contributed to his death.

Note: Jeremy Weiland is all over this on Twitter.

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