Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event on December 13, 2008
|Born||Aaron H. Swartz
November 8, 1986
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||January 11, 2013
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide by hanging|
|Occupation||Software developer, writer, Internet activist|
|Title||Fellow, Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics|
|Awards||American Library Association's James Madison Award (posthumously)|
Swartz was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS, the organization Creative Commons, the website framework web.py and the social news site Reddit, in which he was an equal partner after its merger with his Infogami company.[i] Swartz also focused on sociology, civic awareness and activism. In 2010, he became a research fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption, directed by Lawrence Lessig. He founded the online group Demand Progress, known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act.
On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by MIT police on state breaking-and-entering charges, in connection with the systematic downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR. Federal prosecutors eventually charged him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, charges carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines plus 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution and supervised release.
Life and works 
Swartz was born in Chicago, Illinois, the eldest son of Susan and Robert Swartz. His father had founded a software company (Mark Williams Co.) and from an early age Swartz immersed himself in the study of computers, programming, the Internet, and Internet culture. He attended North Shore Country Day School, a small private school near Chicago, through 9th grade and then left to take classes at a local college.
At age 13, Swartz won the ArsDigita Prize, a competition for young people who create “useful, educational, and collaborative” noncommercial websites. The prize included a trip to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and meetings with Internet notables. At age 14, he became a member of the working group that authored the RSS 1.0 web syndication specification, a lesser-used offshoot of an earlier RSS version. He designed and implemented Strongbox, a system that allows anonymous informants to send electronic documents to reporters at The New Yorker without fear of disclosure .
In 2001 Swartz joined the RDFCore working group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), where he authored RFC 3870, Application/RDF+XML Media Type Registration. The document described a new media type, “RDF/XML”, designed to support the Semantic Web.
Infogami, Reddit, Jottit 
Infogami’s wiki platform was being used to support the Internet Archive’s Open Library project and the web.py web framework that Swartz had created, but he felt he needed co-founders to proceed further. Y-Combinator organizers suggested that Infogami merge with Reddit, which it did in November 2005. Reddit at first found it difficult to make money from the project, but the site later gained in popularity, with millions of users visiting it each month.
In late 2006, after months of negotiations, Reddit was acquired by Condé Nast Publications, the owner of Wired magazine. Swartz moved with his company to San Francisco to work on Wired. The move did not work out well for Swartz, who found office life uncongenial, and he was fired soon after.
In September 2007, Swartz joined with Simon Carstensen to launch Jottit.
In 2008 Swartz founded Watchdog.net, “the good government site with teeth,” to aggregate and visualize data about politicians.
Swartz was a co-founder of Demand Progress, an advocacy group that organizes people online to “take action by contacting Congress and other leaders, funding pressure tactics, and spreading the word” about civil liberties, government reform, and other issues.
Author Cory Doctorow, in his novel, Homeland, “dr[ew] on advice from Swartz in setting out how his protagonist could use the information now available about voters to create a grass-roots anti-establishment political campaign.” In an afterword to the novel, Swartz wrote, "these [political hacktivist] tools can be used by anyone motivated and talented enough.... Now it’s up to you to change the system.... Let me know if I can help."
Stop Online Piracy Act 
Swartz was involved with a campaign to prevent the passing of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which sought to combat Internet copyright violations but was criticized on the basis that it would have made it easier for the U.S. government to shut down web sites accused of violating copyright.
Following the defeat of the bill, Swartz was the keynote speaker at the F2C:Freedom to Connect 2012 event in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2012. His speech was titled “How We Stopped SOPA” and he informed the audience:
This bill ... shut down whole websites. Essentially, it stopped Americans from communicating entirely with certain groups....
I called all my friends, and we stayed up all night setting up a website for this new group, Demand Progress, with an online petition opposing this noxious bill.... We [got] ... 300,000 signers.... We met with the staff of members of Congress and pleaded with them.... And then it passed unanimously....
He added, “We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. Everyone took it as their job to save this crucial freedom.” He was referring to a series of protests against the bill by numerous websites that was described by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as the biggest in Internet history, with over 115,000 sites altering their webpages. Swartz also presented on this topic at an event organized by ThoughtWorks.
Swartz volunteered as an editor at Wikipedia, and in 2006, he ran for the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Directors, but was not elected. Also in 2006, Swartz wrote an analysis of how Wikipedia articles are written, and concluded that the bulk of the actual content comes from tens of thousands of occasional contributors, or "outsiders", each of whom may not make many other contributions to the site, while a core group of 500 to 1,000 regular editors tend to correct spelling and other formatting errors. According to Swartz: "the formatters aid the contributors, not the other way around."
His conclusions, based on the analysis of edit histories of several randomly selected articles, contradicted the opinion of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, who believed the core group of regular editors were providing most of the content while thousands of others contributed to formatting issues. Swartz came to his conclusions by counting the total number of characters added by an editor to a particular article—while Wales counted the total number of edits. Swartz's analysis is described on his blog post and was part of his bid to be elected to Wikimedia's Board of Directors.
Library of Congress 
Around 2006, Swartz acquired the Library of Congress's complete bibliographic dataset: the library charged fees to access this, but as a government document, it was not copyright-protected within the USA. By posting the data on OpenLibrary, Swartz made it freely available. The Library of Congress project, unlike the PACER or JSTOR cases, was met with approval by the Copyright Office.
In 2008, Swartz downloaded and released about 2.7 million federal court documents stored in the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) database managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.
The Huffington Post characterized his actions this way: "Swartz downloaded public court documents from the PACER system in an effort to make them available outside of the expensive service. The move drew the attention of the FBI, which ultimately decided not to press charges as the documents, were, in fact, public."
PACER was charging 8 cents per page for information that Carl Malamud, who founded the nonprofit group Public.Resource.Org, contended should be free, because federal documents are not covered by copyright. The fees were "plowed back to the courts to finance technology, but the system [ran] a budget surplus of some $150 million, according to court reports," reported The New York Times. PACER used technology that was “designed in the bygone days of screechy telephone modems ... put[ting] the nation’s legal system behind a wall of cash and kludge.” Malamud appealed to fellow activists, urging them to visit one of 17 libraries conducting a free trial of the PACER system, download court documents, and send them to him for public distribution.
After reading Malamud’s call for action, Swartz used a Perl computer script running on Amazon cloud servers to download the documents, using credentials belonging to a Sacramento library. From September 4 to 20, 2008, it accessed documents and uploaded them to a cloud computing service. He released the documents to Malamud’s organization.
On September 29, 2008, the GPO suspended the free trial, "pending an evaluation" of the program. Swartz’s actions were subsequently investigated by the FBI. The case was closed after two months with no charges filed. Swartz learned the details of the investigation as a result of filing a FOIA request with the FBI and described their response as the "usual mess of confusions that shows the FBI’s lack of sense of humor." PACER still charges per page, but customers using Firefox have the option of saving the documents for free public access with a plug-in called RECAP.
Writing in arstechnica, Timothy Lee, who later made use of the documents obtained by Swartz as a co-creator of RECAP, offered some insight into discrepancies in reporting on just how much data Swartz had downloaded: "In a back-of-the-envelope calculation a few days before the offsite crawl was shut down, Swartz guessed he got around 25 percent of the documents in PACER. The New York Times similarly reported Swartz had downloaded "an estimated 20 percent of the entire database...." Based on the facts that Swartz downloaded 2.7 million documents while PACER, at the time, contained 500 million, Lee concluded that Swartz downloaded less than one percent of the database.
On December 27, 2010, Swartz filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn about the treatment of Bradley Manning, alleged source for Wikileaks. On January 21, 2013, Russia Today reported that Wikileaks had released a statement (via Twitter) claiming that Swartz "assisted Wikileaks" and had been in contact with Julian Assange in 2010-11.
Arrest and prosecution 
JSTOR download 
JSTOR is a digital repository that archives content from journal articles, manuscripts, GIS systems, and scanned plant specimens and disseminates it online. Swartz was a research fellow at Harvard University, which provided him with a JSTOR account. Visitors to MIT’s "open campus" were authorized to access JSTOR through its network.
According to state and federal authorities, over the course of a few weeks in late 2010 and early 2011 Swartz downloaded a large number[ii] of academic journal articles from JSTOR through MIT’s computer network. The authorities say Swartz downloaded the documents through a laptop connected to a networking switch in a controlled-access wiring closet. According to press reports, the door to the closet was kept unlocked.
Arrests, charges and indictments 
On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested near the Harvard campus by two MIT police officers and a U.S. Secret Service agent. He was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on two state charges of breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony.
On July 11, 2011, Swartz was indicted in Federal District Court on four felony counts: wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and recklessly damaging a protected computer.
On November 17, 2011, Swartz was indicted by a Middlesex County Superior Court grand jury on state charges of breaking and entering with intent, grand larceny and unauthorized access to a computer network.
On December 16, 2011, the district attorney’s office filed a nolle prosequi declaration in the case generated by Swartz's initial January 6, 2011 arrest. The state charges against Swartz stemming from the November 17, 2011 indictment were dropped on March 8, 2012. According to a spokesperson for the Middlesex County prosecutor, the state charges were dropped in order to permit federal prosecution to proceed, unimpeded.
Writing in Massachussetts Lawyers’ Weekly, Harvey Silverglate reported that lawyers familiar with the original case told him they had expected it to be dismissed after a "'continuance without a finding'.... The charge [would be] held in abeyance ... without any verdict ... for a period of a few months up to maybe a couple of years." After the publication of his Massachusetts Lawyers' Weekly piece, Silverglate explained to CNET's Declan McCullagh that if the defendant manages to stay out of further legal trouble after such a continuance, the case is typically dismissed. "Tragedy intervened," Silverglate had written, "when [U.S. Attorney Carmen] Ortiz’s office took over the case to 'send a message.'"
According to Verge reporter Jeff Blagdon and the Huffington Post, federal rather than local prosecutors had been "calling the shots" on the prosecution of the case since Swartz’s arrest. Both cited a letter from Swartz's attorneys to the Department of Justice.
The lead prosecutor in Mr. Swartz’s [federal] case, AUSA Stephen Heymann ... and [Secret Service] Agent Pickett directed and controlled the investigation of Mr. Swartz from the time of [his] arrest on January 6.... Heymann’s involvement in the case had commenced very early in the investigation.
Federal prosecution 
On April 13, 2011, as part of their investigation, federal authorities interviewed Swartz’s former partner, Wired journalist Quinn Norton; she penned an article, "Life Inside the Aaron Swartz Investigation," detailing her experiences in the case.
I mentioned ... a two-year-old public post on ... Aaron's blog. It had been fairly widely picked up by other blogs. I couldn't imagine that these people who had just claimed to have read everything I'd ever written had never looked at their target's blog, which appeared in his FBI file, or searched for what he thought about "open access." They hadn't.
So this is where I was profoundly foolish. I told them about the Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto. And in doing so, Aaron would explain to me later (and reporters would confirm), I made everything worse.
On July 19, 2011, the July 11th federal indictment was unsealed, charging Swartz with two counts of fraud and two counts related to accessing and damaging a protected computer. According to the indictment, Swartz surreptitiously attached a laptop to MIT’s computer network, which ran a script named “keepgrabbing.py”, allowing him to "rapidly download an extraordinary volume of articles from JSTOR." Prosecutors in the case said Swartz acted with the intention of making the papers available on P2P file-sharing sites.
Swartz surrendered to authorities, pleading not guilty on all counts, and was released on $100,000 unsecured bail. After his arrest, JSTOR released a statement saying that though it considered Swartz’s access to be a "significant misuse" committed in an "unauthorized fashion," it would not pursue civil litigation against him; MIT did not comment on the proceedings.
The New York Times wrote of the case: "a respected Harvard researcher who also is an Internet folk hero has been arrested in Boston on charges related to computer hacking, which are based on allegations that he downloaded articles that he was entitled to get free."
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Heymann and Scott Garland were the lead prosecutors, working under the supervision of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. The case was brought under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was passed in 1986 to enhance the government’s ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality. "If convicted on these charges," said Ortiz, "Swartz faces up to 35 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million."
On September 12, 2012, the prosecution filed a superseding indictment adding nine more felony counts. George Washington University Law School Professor Orin Kerr, writing on the legal blog Volokh Conspiracy, opined that the risk of a maximum sentence in Swartz’s case was not high. Retired federal judge Nancy Gertner concurred that "Thirty-five years is the maximum someone could get in the case if the judge applied the maximum. And this never happens.” Gertner questioned the appropriateness of pressing charges in the first place. "“This is the example of bad judgment I saw too often,” she wrote, suggesting that a two-year diversion program leading to expunged charges would have been more appropriate. 
Plea negotiations 
Swartz’s attorney, Elliot Peters, said prosecutors told him, two days before Swartz’s death, that “Swartz would have to spend six months in prison and plead guilty to 13 charges if he wanted to avoid going to trial.” Peters later filed a complaint with the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility, stating that if Swartz didn't plead guilty, Heymann "threatened that he would seek for Mr. Swartz to serve seven years in prison," a difference in duration Peters asserts went "far beyond" the disparity encouraged by the plea-bargain portion of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Andy Good, Swartz’s initial lawyer, told The Boston Globe: “I told Heymann the kid was a suicide risk. His reaction was a standard reaction in that office, not unique to Steve. He said, ‘Fine, we’ll lock him up.’ I’m not saying they made Aaron kill himself. Aaron might have done this anyway. I’m saying they were aware of the risk, and they were heedless.”
Marty Weinberg, who took the case over from Good, said he nearly negotiated a plea bargain in which Swartz would not serve any time. "JSTOR signed off on it," he said, "but MIT would not."
Shortly before Swartz’s death, JSTOR announced that it would make "more than 4.5 million articles" available to the public for free. The service was capped at three articles every two weeks, readable online only, with some downloadable for a fee.
After his death, Ortiz’s office dismissed the charges against Swartz. She said, "this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case.... This office sought an appropriate sentence that matched the alleged conduct—a sentence that we would recommend to the judge of six months in a low security setting.... At no time did this office ever seek—or ever tell Mr. Swartz’s attorneys that it intended to seek—maximum penalties under the law."
On January 12, 2013, Alex Stamos, a computer forensics investigator employed by the Swartz legal defense team, posted an online summary of the expert testimony he had been prepared to present in the JSTOR case, had Swartz lived to see trial. He wrote:
If I had taken the stand as planned and had been asked by the prosecutor whether Aaron’s actions were "wrong," I would probably have replied that what Aaron did would better be described as "inconsiderate." In the same way it is inconsiderate ... to check out every book at the library needed for a History 101 paper. It is inconsiderate to download lots of files on shared wifi...
Federal prosecutory rationale and responses 
U.S. Attorney Ortiz asserted after the 2011 indictment that “stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”
About the prosecution 
At a 2013 memorial for Swartz at the Internet Archive, his collaborator Carl Malamud recalled their work with PACER:
When we brought in 20 million pages of U.S. District Court documents from behind their ... PACER pay wall, we found these public filings infested with privacy violations: names of minor children, names of informants, medical records ....
We sent our results to the Chief Judges of 31 District Courts.... They redacted those documents and they yelled at the lawyers that filed them and the Judicial Conference changed their privacy rules.
... [To] the bureaucrats who ran the Administrative Office of the United States Courts ... we were thieves that took $1.6 million of their property.
So they called the FBI.... [The FBI] found nothing wrong.
Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean wrote an article on the legal blog justia.com entitled Dealing With Aaron Swartz in the Nixonian Tradition: Overzealous Overcharging Leads to a Tragic Result, saying "these are not people who are conscientiously and fairly upholding our federal laws. Rather, they are typically authoritarian personalities who get their jollies from shamelessly beating up on unfortunate people like Aaron Swartz."
George Washington University law professeor Orin Kerr wrote on January 15, 2013 that "the charges brought here were pretty much what any good federal prosecutor would have charged." Duke University law professor James Boyle replied in The Huffington Post: "I think that in [Kerr’s] descriptions of the facts [and of] the issues surrounding prosecutorial discretion ... he tends ... to minimize or ignore facts that might put [Swartz] in a more favorable light."
About the law 
After Boyle's Huffington Post column, Kerr returned to the topic, advocating reform of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) under which Swartz was prosecuted. "The problem raised by the Swartz case is ... [that] felony liability under the statute is triggered much too easily. The law needs to draw a distinction between low-level crimes and more serious crimes, and current law does so poorly...."
Chris Soghoian, a technology policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, argued similarly, “Existing laws don’t recognise the distinction between two types of computer crimes: malicious crimes committed for profit ... and cases where hackers break into systems to prove their skillfulness or spread information that they think should be available to the public.”
Death, funeral and memorial gatherings 
|Aaron Swartz Memorial at The Great Hall of Cooper Union, (transcript)|
|Aaron Swartz Memorial at the Internet Archive, (partial transcript)|
|DC Memorial: Darrel Issa , Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Alan Grayson|
On the evening of January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment by his partner. A spokeswoman for New York’s Medical Examiner reported that he had hanged himself. No suicide note was found.
Swartz’s family and partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, created a memorial website on which they issued a statement, saying, "he used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place."
[The U.S.] government needs to [say] why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a "felon." For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept.
On the same day, in another eulogy for Swartz, author Cory Doctorow wrote, "Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill, and intelligence about people and issues. I think he could have revolutionized American (and worldwide) politics. His legacy may still yet do so."
Swartz’s funeral services were held on January 15, 2013, at Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park, Illinois. Tim Berners-Lee, co-creator of the World Wide Web, delivered a eulogy at the service.
The same day, The Wall Street Journal published a story based in part on an interview with Stinebrickner-Kauffman. She told the Journal that Swartz lacked the money to pay for a trial and "it was too hard for him to ... make that part of his life go public" by asking for help. He was also distressed, she said, because two of his friends had just been subpoenaed and because he no longer believed that MIT would try to stop the prosecution.
On January 19, hundreds attended a memorial at the Great Hall at Cooper Union. Speakers included Ben Wikler, Open Source advocate Doc Searls, Creative Commons’ Glenn Otis Brown, journalist Quinn Norton, OK Go singer Damian Kulash, Yale Professor emeritus Edward Tufte, Givewell’s Holden Karnofsky, author Tom Chiarella (also reading for David Foster Wallace), Roy Singham of ThoughtWorks, David Isenberg of Freedom to Connect, David Segal of Demand Progress, and Swartz’s partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman.
On January 24, there was a memorial at San Francisco’s Internet Archive with speakers including journalist Danny O’Brien, Aaron’s partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Lisa Rein, EFF senior technologist Seth Schoen, Peter Eckersley, O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly, Molly Shaffer van Houweling, Alex Stamos, Internet law attorney Cindy Cohn, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle and public domain advocate Carl Malamud.
On February 4, a memorial was held in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill. Speakers included Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Darrell Issa, Alan Grayson and Jared Polis. Other lawmakers in attendence included Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Jan Schakowsky. "Stick it to the man," said Issa. "Access to information is a human right."
Swartz was the subject of a detailed profile by Larissa MacFarquhar for the New Yorker in March 2013.
Family response and criticism 
On January 12, Swartz’s family and partner issued a statement, criticizing the prosecutors and MIT.
After Mitch Kapor posted the statement on Twitter, Carmen Ortiz’s husband, Tom Dolan, replied, criticizing the Swartz family: "Truly incredible that in their own son’s obit they blame others for his death and make no mention of the 6-month offer." This comment triggered a backlash of criticism; in one such instance, Esquire political blogger Charlie Pierce wrote, "the glibness with which her husband and her defenders toss off a ‘mere’ six months in federal prison, low-security or not, is a further indication that something is seriously out of whack with the way our prosecutors think these days."
Legal proceedings 
On January 28, 2013, the lawyers for Swartz’s estate sent a letter to the Justice Department accusing Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann of professional misconduct. They said Heymann "may have misrepresented to the Court the extent of the federal government’s [early] involvement in the investigation."
Emails and reports further illustrated ... that AUSA Heymann was himself involved in the investigation even before Mr. Swartz was arrested on January 6, 2011.
Swartz ... naturally felt extreme pressure to waive his rights.... The difference between an offer of four months and a threat of seven years went far beyond the minimal reduction ... that should properly have applied for [a defendant’s] "acceptance of responsibility" under the Sentencing Guidelines.
On March 15, the lawyers asked the federal court to modify the protective order on Swartz’s file to permit public disclosure of the discovery materials, including the names and titles of MIT, JSTOR and law enforcement employees. The lawyers said that withholding the names would make the documents "less intelligible and thus far less useful to Congress." The First Assistant U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Jack Pirozzolo, said he was taking a role in the discussions and would be asking the court to give the affected employees an opportunity to be heard on the proposed disclosures.
The Department of Justice has sought to hide the names of the prosecutors involved in the case. A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson said, "our argument against it is that not only does it have an effect on the people involved in the case, but there’s also sometimes a residual effect."
On May 13, 2013, the court granted in part the estate's motion to permit public disclosure of discovery materials, provided that certain information, such as the names of MIT employees, was redacted. 
In the press 
The Huffington Post reported that "Ortiz has faced significant backlash for pursuing the case against Swartz, including a petition to the White House to have her fired." Other news outlets reported similarly.
Reuters news agency called Swartz "an online icon" who "help[ed] to make a virtual mountain of information freely available to the public, including an estimated 19 million pages of federal court documents." The Associated Press (AP) reported that Swartz’s case "highlights society’s uncertain, evolving view of how to treat people who break into computer systems and share data not to enrich themselves, but to make it available to others," and that JSTOR's lawyer, former U.S. Attorney for Manhattan Mary Jo White, had asked the lead prosecutor to drop the charges.
David Aaronovitch noted in The Times that JSTOR was itself a "product of philanthropy" but that it had to charge access fees so that it could pay academic publishers for rights to their publications. He added, "Swartz reminds me of the early Julian Assange — uncompromising, brilliant, febrile and indulged."
Salon covered the story of a Brooklyn, NY muralist who created a mural of Swartz.
Gawker noted the extensive coverage of Swartz’s prosecution and suicide, writing "the suicide of a 26-year-old computer genius is the kind of story magazines were made to cover: complex but instantly engaging, offering a window into an unusual world."
Open Access 
In 2002, Swartz stated that when he died he wanted all the contents of his hard drives made publicly available.
A long-time supporter of Open Access, Swartz wrote in his Open Access Guerilla Manifesto
The world’s entire scientific ... heritage ... is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations....
The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it.
Supporters of Swartz responded to news of his death with an effort called #PDFTribute to promote Open Access. On January 12, Eva Vivalt, a development economist at the World Bank, began posting her academic articles online using the hashtag #pdftribute as a tribute to Swartz. Scholars posted links to their works.
Swartz’s death prompted calls for more open access to scholarly data. Jennifer Chan wrote an opinion piece for U.S.News & World Report arguing that "bringing knowledge to the public should be the central mission of academia". Similarly, Slate technology columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote that "if MIT truly wants to atone for joining the federal case against Swartz ... it should pledge to spend its money, prestige, and moral authority to launch a multiuniversity campaign to free every scholarly article from behind paywall archives like JSTOR."
The Think Computer Foundation and the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) at Princeton University announced scholarships awarded in memory of Aaron Swartz.
In 2013, Aaron Swartz was posthumously awarded the American Library Association’s James Madison Award for being an "outspoken advocate for public participation in government and unrestricted access to peer-reviewed scholarly articles."
In March, the editor and editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration resigned en masse, citing a dispute with the journal’s publisher. One board member wrote of a "crisis of conscience about publishing in a journal that was not open access" after the death of Aaron Swartz.
Hacks and hoaxes 
Two days after Swartz’s death, members of Anonymous hacked two websites on the MIT domain, replacing them with tributes to Swartz that called on members of the Internet community to use his death as a rallying moment for the open access movement. The banner included a list of demands for improvements in the US copyright system, along with a 2008 essay by Swartz, Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.
On the night of January 18–19, MIT’s e-mail system was taken out of action for ten hours.
On January 22, e-mail sent to MIT was redirected by hackers Aush0k and TibitXimer to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology. All other traffic to MIT was redirected to a computer at Harvard University that was publishing a statement headed "R.I.P Aaron Swartz," with text from a 2009 posting by Swartz, accompanied by a chiptunes version of The Star-Spangled Banner. MIT regained full control after about seven hours.
In the early hours of January 26, the United States Sentencing Commission website, ussc.gov, was hacked by Anonymous. The home page was replaced with an embedded YouTube video, Anonymous Operation Last Resort.
On February 23, Cambridge police received a message, via an Internet-to-phone relay service, about a gunman barricaded inside an MIT building. Police searched room-to-room and, after a three-hour campus lockdown, declared the message a hoax. On February 26, MIT’s student newspaper, The Tech, reported law enforcement radio traffic suggesting police were concerned that a gunman could be targeting MIT staff, including MIT President L. Rafael Reif, to retaliate for Swartz’s death. On February 27, MIT Executive Vice President Israel Ruiz e-mailed the MIT community, saying the caller had "indicated that the alleged gunman was retaliating against people involved in the suicide." The Boston Herald observed that "the email contradicts initial statements by Cambridge police, who [had] said ... they did not believe Swartz’s death had anything to do with the hoax."
MIT role and Abelson investigation 
MIT maintains an open-campus policy along with an "open network." Two days after Swartz’s death, Reif commissioned professor Hal Abelson to lead an analysis of MIT’s options and decisions relating to Swartz’s "legal struggles." To help guide the fact-finding stage of the review, MIT created a website where community members could suggest questions and issues for the review to address.
Swartz’s attorneys have requested that all pretrial discovery documents be made public, a move opposed by MIT. Swartz allies have criticized MIT for its opposition to releasing the evidence without redactions.
Petition to the White House 
After Swartz's death, more than 50,000 people signed an online petition to the White House calling for the removal of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, "for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz." A similar petition was submitted calling for prosecutor Stephen Heymann's firing.
Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives — Republican Darrell Issa and Democrats Jared Polis and Zoe Lofgren — all on the House Judiciary Committee, have raised questions regarding the government’s handling of the case.
Calling the charges against him "ridiculous and trumped up," Polis said Swartz was a "martyr," whose death illustrated the need for Congress to limit the discretion of federal prosecutors. Speaking at a memorial for Swartz on Capitol Hill, Issa said
Ultimately, knowledge belongs to all the people of the world.... Aaron understood that.... Our copyright laws were created for the purpose of promoting useful works, not hiding them.
Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren issued a statement saying “[Aaron’s] advocacy for Internet freedom, social justice, and Wall Street reform demonstrated ... the power of his ideas....” In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn asked, “On what basis did the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts conclude that her office’s conduct was ‘appropriate’?” and “Was the prosecution of Mr. Swartz in any way retaliation for his exercise of his rights as a citizen under the Freedom of Information Act?”
Congressional investigations 
Issa, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced that he would investigate the Justice Department’s actions in prosecuting Swartz. In a statement to the Huffington Post, he praised Swartz’s work toward "open government and free access to the people." Issa’s investigation has garnered some bipartisan support.
On January 28, Issa and ranking committee member Elijah Cummings published a letter to U.S. Attorney General Holder, questioning whether prosecutors intentionally added felony counts to increase the amount of time Swartz faced in prison. Indeed, the former four felony counts on July 14, 2011, jumped to 13 counts on September 12, 2012. Their letter read, in part
It appears that prosecutors increased the felony counts by providing specific dates for each action, turning each marked date into its own felony charge, and significantly increasing Mr. Swartz’s maximum criminal exposure to up to 50 years imprisonment and $1 million in fines.
On February 22, Associate Deputy Attorney General Steven Reich conducted a briefing for congressional staffers involved in the investigation. They were told that Swartz’s Guerilla Open Access Manifesto played a role in prosecutorial decision-making. Some are reported to have been left with the impression that prosecutors believed Swartz had to be convicted of a felony carrying at least a short prison sentence in order to justify having filed the case against him in the first place.
Excoriating the Department of Justice as the “Department of Vengeance”, Stinebrickner-Kaufmann told the Guardian that the DOJ had erred in relying on Swartz’s Guerilla Open Access Manifesto as an accurate indication of his beliefs by 2010. “He was no longer a single issue activist,” she said. "He was into lots of things, from healthcare, to climate change to money in politics."
On March 6, Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the case was a "a good use of prosecutorial discretion". Stinebrickner-Kauffman issued a statement in reply. She repeated her claims of prosecutorial misconduct, saying
Public documents show that [Heymann] instructed the Secret Service to seize and hold evidence without a warrant.... He then lied to the judge about that fact in written briefs. And he withheld exculpatory evidence from Aaron’s lawyers for over a year, despite both a legal and ethical obligation to turn it over.
On March 22, Sen. Al Franken wrote Holder a letter expressing concerns. Franken said, "charging a young man like Mr. Swartz with federal offenses punishable by over 35 years of federal imprisonment seems remarkably aggressive — particularly when it appears that one of the principal aggrieved parties ... did not support a criminal prosecution."
Amendment to Computer Fraud and Abuse Act 
Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig wrote of the bill, "this is a critically important change.... The CFAA was the hook for the government’s bullying.... This law would remove that hook. In a single line: no longer would it be a felony to breach a contract." Professor Orin Kerr, a specialist in the nexus between computer law and criminal law, wrote that he had been arguing for precisely this sort of reform of the Act for years. The ACLU, too, has called for reform of the CFAA to "remove the dangerously broad criminalization of online activity." The EFF has mounted a campaign for these reforms.
Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act 
The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) is a bill that would mandate earlier public release of taxpayer-funded research. FASTR has been described "The Other Aaron's Law."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the Senate version, while the bill was introduced to the House by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) and Kevin Yoder (R-Kans.) Sen. Wyden wrote of the bill, "the FASTR act provides that access because taxpayer funded research should never be hidden behind a paywall." 
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- "James Madison Award". Ala.org. 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
- http://chrisbourg.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/my-short-stint-on-the-jla-editorial-board/ "It was just days after Aaron Swartz’ death, and I was having a crisis of conscience about publishing in a journal that was not open access."
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- Reported by Sabari Selvan. "United States Sentencing Commission(ussc.gov) hacked and defaced by Anonymous | Hacking News | Security updates". Ehackingnews.com. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
- "Hackers take over sentencing commission website". Associated Press. Jan 26, 2013.
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- "Anonymous hackers target US agency site". BBC News. January 26, 2013. "‘Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed,’ the statement said."
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- "...there was a third cofounder of Reddit, who was...", Today I learned..., Reddit
|Find more about Aaron Swartz at Wikipedia's sister projects|
|Media from Commons|
|News stories from Wikinews|
|Quotations from Wikiquote|
|Source texts from Wikisource|
|Travel information from Wikivoyage|
- Official website
- Wikipedia user page (2004–2013)
- Twitter profile (@aaronsw)
- Remembrances (2013– ), with obituary and official statement from family and partner
- The Aaron Swartz Collection at Internet Archive (2013– ) (podcasts, e-mail correspondence, other materials)
- Guerilla Open Access Manifesto
- Posting about Swartz as Wikipedia contributor (2013), at The Wikipedian
- Case Docket: US v. Swartz