Aaron Swartz, a dedicated advocate for open knowledge and accomplished hacker, who was facing a potential 30+ year jail term and over a million dollars in fines for liberating JSTOR scientific research papers from behind a pay wall, took his own life on Friday, January 11th.
On behalf of all Massachusetts Pirates, we express our condolences to his family and those he loved. Aaron was a resolute fighter for the right of people to share knowledge and worked untold hours to defeat bills such as SOPA/PIPA, ACTA, CISPA and a whole host of bills or treaties that would hinder our First Amendment right to free speech on the Internet. We will miss him for his insights, purpose and vigor in the years of struggle we have before us.
Whatever paeans are spoken for him, never forget that Aaron was a casualty of the War on Sharing. He is not the first and nor will he be the last.
Some casualties are well known and include Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde, Carl Lundström, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Joel Tenenbaum and Kim Dotcom. Others such as Tarek Mehanna and Jammie Thomas-Rasset are less well known, but no less important. The persecution they have received from governments and corporations has been called a tragedy and we agree.
Yet the number who have suffered is far higher than those reported in the press. Some have had to defend themselves against France’s draconian three strikes anti-file sharing law that can deny whole families access to the Internet because one person is accused of file sharing three times. Others have had their domains or servers seized without trial based on the copyright cartel’s assertions that these sites were sharing copyrighted files.
While we often focus on the efforts to stop people from sharing a song from their favorite artist, the effects of patents are far more damaging. By far the most affected by the War on Sharing are the millions who do not have access to the lifesaving drugs they need because patents have driven drug prices beyond what they or their countries can afford. Thousands of poor, indebted farmers in India have committed suicide in part due to using extortionately-priced patented GM seeds that are not the magic seeds as claimed and, like a perverse DRM technology, are designed so that farmers cannot harvest seeds for next years planting. We all suffer from an encroaching big brother state when the War on Sharing joins with the War on Privacy.
United States attorney, Carmen M. Ortiz, has said about Aaron: “Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.” Sadly she has not directed these words at the banksters on Wall Street who caused the theft of trillions of dollars in the value of people’s pension funds and houses, while demanding trillions in bailouts from the public purse. Defenders of artificial scarcity, such as Ms. Ortiz, might be willing to look the other way on who the real victims are, but heroes like Aaron and the rest fought for and continue to fight for what is right and just.
Aaron is dead, but the struggle continues. We will expand our efforts to help the untold millions who suffer from the War on Sharing. Will you?
[Written by James, Sevan, bsod, Ma Sh, Lauren and Lucia, and likely others we didn't ask or who were too busy to read it when we sent it to them. Feel free to reprint, repost, remix, etc. with/out attribution. It's the words that matter and the spirit behind them.]