Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event on December 13, 2008
|Born||Aaron H. Swartz
November 8, 1986
Highland Park, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||January 11, 2013
Brooklyn, New York, 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)
EFF Pioneer Award 2013 (posthumously)
Internet Hall of Fame 2013 (posthumously)
Aaron Hillel Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was an American computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer, and Internet hacktivist. He was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS and the Markdown publishing format, the organization Creative Commons, the website framework, web.py, and the social news site, Reddit, in which he became a partner after its merger with his company, Infogami.[i] He committed suicide while under federal indictment for data-theft, a prosecution that was characterized by his family as being "the product of a criminal-justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach".
Swartz's work also focused on civic awareness and activism. He helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism. In 2010, he became a research fellow at Harvard University's 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, after connecting a computer to the MIT network in an unmarked and unlocked closet, and setting it to download academic journal articles systematically from JSTOR using a guest user account issued to him by MIT. Federal prosecutors later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and eleven violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution, and supervised release.
Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison. Two days after the prosecution rejected a counter-offer by Swartz, he was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment, where he had hanged himself.
- 1 Life and works
- 2 JSTOR
- 3 Death, funeral, and memorial gatherings
- 4 Aftermath
- 4.1 Family response and criticism
- 4.2 In the press and the arts
- 4.3 Killswitch
- 4.4 Open Access
- 4.5 Hacks
- 4.6 MIT and the Abelson investigation
- 4.7 Petition to the White House
- 4.8 Congress
- 4.9 Commemorations
- 5 Publications
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 Documentary video
- 10 External links
Life and works
Swartz was born in Highland Park, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), the eldest son of Jewish parents Susan and Robert Swartz. His father had founded the software firm Mark Williams Company. 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, until 9th grade. Swartz left high school in the 10th grade, and enrolled in courses at a Chicago area college.
At age 13, Swartz won an ArsDigita Prize, given to young people who create "useful, educational, and collaborative" noncommercial websites. At age 14, he became a member of the working group that authored the RSS 1.0 web syndication specification.
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.
Swartz was a major contributor to Markdown, a lightweight markup language for generating HTML, and author of its html2text translator. The syntax for Markdown was influenced by Swartz's earlier atx language (2002), which today is primarily remembered for its syntax for specifying headers, known as atx-style headers:
# H1-header ## H2-header ... ###### H6-header
Markdown itself remains in widespread use.
Swartz attended Stanford University. During his freshman year, Swartz applied to Y Combinator's very first Summer Founders Program proposing to work on a startup named Infogami designed as a flexible content management system to allow the creation of rich and visually interesting websites or a form of wiki for structured data. After working on Infogami with co-founder Simon Carstensen over the summer of 2005, Aaron opted not to return to Stanford, choosing instead to continue to develop and seek funding for Infogami.
As part of his work on Infogami, Swartz created the web.py web application framework because he was unhappy with other available systems in the Python programming language. In early fall of 2005, Swartz worked with the founders of another nascent Y-Combinator firm Reddit, to rewrite their Lisp codebase using Python and web.py. Although Infogami's platform was abandoned after Not A Bug was acquired, Infogami's software was used to support the Internet Archive's Open Library project and the web.py web framework was used as basis for many other projects by Swartz and many others.
When Infogami failed to find further funding, Y-Combinator organizers suggested that Infogami merge with Reddit, which it did in November 2005 to form a new firm Not A Bug devoted to promoting both products. Although both projects initially struggled to gain traction, Reddit began to make large gains in popularity in 2005 and 2006.
In October 2006, based largely on the success of Reddit, Not A Bug was acquired by Condé Nast Publications, the owner of Wired magazine. Swartz moved with his company to San Francisco to work on Wired. Swartz found office life uncongenial, and he ultimately left the company.
In 2008, Swartz founded Watchdog.net, "the good government site with teeth," to aggregate and visualize data about politicians. In the same year, he wrote a widely circulated Guerilla Open Access Manifesto; (see #Open Access below for details).
In 2009, wanting to learn about effective activism, Swartz helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He wrote on his blog, "I spend my days experimenting with new ways to get progressive policies enacted and progressive politicians elected." Swartz led the first activism event of his career with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, delivering thousands of "Honor Kennedy" petition signatures to Massachusetts legislators asking them to fulfill former Senator Ted Kennedy's last wish by appointing a senator to vote for health care reform.
In 2010, Swartz co-founded Demand Progress, a political 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 in the campaign to prevent passage 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 and would have placed intolerable burdens on Internet providers. 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....
And then, suddenly, the process stopped. Senator Ron Wyden ... put a hold on the bill.
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 unsuccessfully for the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees. 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.
In 2008, Swartz worked with Virgil Griffith to design and implement Tor2web, an HTTP proxy for Tor-hidden services. The proxy was designed to provide easy access to Tor from a basic web browser.
It was reported after his death that 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 was met with approval by the Copyright Office. Other sources show that the file was donated to the Internet Archive from Plymouth State University's library system, Scriblio. Regardless of the source, the file became the basis for the Open Library, with Swartz as chief designer.
In 2008, Swartz downloaded about 2.7 million federal court documents stored in the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) 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.
At a 2013 memorial for Swartz, Malamud recalled their work with PACER. They brought millions of U.S. District Court records out from behind PACER's "pay wall", he said, and found them full of privacy violations, including medical records and the names of minor children and confidential informants.
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 ... 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 ...
Malamud penned a more detailed account of his collaboration with Swartz on the Pacer project in an essay that appears on his website.
Writing in Ars Technica, 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.
In 2011–2012, Swartz and Kevin Poulsen designed and implemented DeadDrop, a system that allows anonymous informants to send electronic documents without fear of disclosure. In May 2013, the first instance of the software was launched by The New Yorker under the name Strongbox. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has since taken over development of the software, which has been renamed SecureDrop.
According to state and federal authorities, Swartz used JSTOR, a digital repository, to download a large number[ii] of academic journal articles through MIT's computer network over the course of a few weeks in late 2010 and early 2011. At the time, 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.
The authorities said Swartz downloaded the documents through a laptop connected to a networking switch in a controlled-access wiring closet at MIT. The door to the closet was kept unlocked, according to press reports. When discovered, JSTOR claims that its employees initially placed a video camera in the room to film Swartz and left Swartz's computer untouched. Once video was captured of Swartz, the download was stopped and Swartz identified. Rather than pursue a civil lawsuit against him, in June 2011 it reached a settlement wherein he surrendered the downloaded data.
Arrest and prosecution
On the night of January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested near the Harvard campus by MIT police 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 by a federal grand jury on charges of 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, state prosecutors filed a notice that they were dropping the two original charges; the charges listed in 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 to permit a federal prosecution headed by Stephen P. Heymann and supported by circumstantial character evidence provided by Secret Service agent Michael S. Pickett  (who in turn gathered double hearsay from MIT staff) to proceed unimpeded.
On September 12, 2012, federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment adding nine more felony counts, which increased Swartz's maximum criminal exposure to 50 years of imprisonment and $1 million in fines. During plea negotiations with Swartz's attorneys, the prosecutors offered to recommend a sentence of six months in a low-security prison, if Swartz would plead guilty to 13 federal crimes. Swartz and his lead attorney rejected that deal, opting instead for a trial in which prosecutors would have been forced to justify their pursuit of Swartz.
The federal prosecution involved what was characterized by numerous critics such as former Nixon White House counsel John Dean as an "overcharging" 13-count indictment and "overzealous" prosecution for alleged computer crimes, brought by the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz. Facing potential incarceration for alleged criminal offenses for which the victims, MIT and JSTOR, declined to pursue civil litigation, Swartz died by suicide on January 11, 2013.
After his death, federal prosecutors dropped the charges. On December 4, 2013, due to a Freedom of Information Act suit by the investigations editor of Wired magazine, several documents related to the case were released by the Secret Service, including a video of Swartz entering the MIT network closet.
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 Brooklyn apartment by his partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman. A spokeswoman for New York's Medical Examiner reported that he had hanged himself. No suicide note was found. Swartz's family and his partner 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."
Days before Swartz's funeral, Lawrence Lessig eulogized his friend and sometime client in an essay, Prosecutor as Bully. He decried the disproportionality of Swartz's prosecution and said, "The question this government needs to answer is 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." 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."
Funeral and memorial gatherings
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. 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.
Several memorials followed soon afterward. On January 19, hundreds attended a memorial at the Cooper Union, speakers at which included Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Open Source advocate Doc Searls, Creative Commons' Glenn Otis Brown, journalist Quinn Norton, Roy Singham of ThoughtWorks, and David Segal of Demand Progress. On January 24, there was a memorial at the Internet Archive with speakers including Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Alex Stamos, Brewster Kahle and Carl Malamud. On February 4, a memorial was held in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill; speakers at this memorial included Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Darrell Issa, Alan Grayson and Jared Polis, and other lawmakers in attendance included Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Jan Schakowsky. A memorial also took place on March 12 at the MIT Media Lab.
Family response and criticism
On January 12, Swartz's family and partner issued a statement, criticizing the prosecutors and MIT.
Speaking at his son's funeral, Robert Swartz said, "Aaron was killed by the government, and MIT betrayed all of its basic principles."
Mitch Kapor posted the statement on Twitter. Tom Dolan, husband of U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz, whose office prosecuted Swartz's case, replied with criticism of 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 widespread criticism; Esquire writer Charlie Pierce replied, "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."
In the press and the arts
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 the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, had asked the lead prosecutor to drop the charges.
As discussed by editor Hrag Vartanian in Hyperallergic, Brooklyn, NY muralist BAMN ("By Any Means Necessary") created a mural of Swartz. "Swartz was an amazing human being who fought tirelessly for our right to a free and open Internet," the artist explained. "He was much more than just the ‘Reddit guy'."
Aaron Swartz legacy has been reported as strengthening the "open access" to scholarship movement. In Illinois, his home state, Swartz's influence led state university faculties to adopt policies in favor of open access.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
On January 11, 2014, marking the first anniversary of his death, a sneak preview was released from The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, a documentary about Swartz, the NSA and SOPA. The film was officially released at the January 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Democracy Now! covered the release of the documentary, as well as Swartz's life and legal case, in a sprawling interview with director Brian Knappenberger, Swartz's father and brother, and his attorney. The documentary is released under a Creative Commons License; it debuted in theaters and on-demand in June 2014.
Mashable called the documentary "a powerful homage to Aaron Swartz". Its debut at Sundance received a standing ovation. Mashable printed, "With the help of experts, The Internet's Own Boy makes a clear argument: Swartz unjustly became a victim of the rights and freedoms for which he stood." The Hollywood Reporter described it as a "heartbreaking" story of a "tech wunderkind persecuted by the US government", and a must-see "for anyone who knows enough to care about the way laws govern information transfer in the digital age".
In October 2014, Killswitch, a film featuring Aaron Swartz, as well as Lawrence Lessig, Tim Wu, and Edward Snowden received its World Premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Editing. The film focuses on Swartz' integral role in the battle to control the Internet.
In February 2015, Killswitch was invited to screen at the Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington DC by Congressman Alan Grayson. The event was held on the eve of the Federal Communications Commission's historic decision on Net Neutrality. Congressman Grayson, Lawrence Lessig, and Free Press (organization) CEO Craig Aaron spoke about Swartz and his fight on behalf of a free and open Internet at the event.
Congressman Grayson states that Killswitch is "One of the most honest accounts of the battle to control the Internet – and access to information itself.". Richard von Busack of the Metro Silicon Valley, writes of Killswitch, "Some of the most lapidary use of found footage this side of The Atomic Café". Fred Swegles of the Orange County Register, remarks, "Anyone who values unfettered access to online information is apt to be captivated by Killswitch, a gripping and fast-paced documentary." Kathy Gill of GeekWire asserts that "Killswitch is much more than a dry recitation of technical history. Director Ali Akbarzadeh, producer Jeff Horn, and writer Chris Dollar created a human centered story. A large part of that connection comes from Lessig and his relationship with Swartz."
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.
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, Routledge. 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.
In 2002, Swartz had stated that when he died, he wanted all the contents of his hard drives made publicly available.
On January 13, 2013, 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 point for the open access movement. The banner included a list of demands for improvements in the U.S. copyright system, along with Swartz's Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.
On the night of January 18, 2013, 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, 2013, the U.S. Sentencing Commission website, USSC.gov, was hacked by Anonymous. The home page was replaced with an embedded YouTube video, Anonymous Operation Last Resort. The video statement said Swartz "faced an impossible choice".
A hacker downloaded "hundreds of thousands" of scientific-journal articles from a Swiss publisher's website and republished them on the open Web in Swartz's honor a week before the first anniversary of his death.
MIT and the Abelson investigation
MIT maintains an open-campus policy along with an "open network." Two days after Swartz's death, MIT President L. Rafael 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 which MIT opposed. Swartz allies have criticized MIT for its opposition to releasing the evidence without redactions.
On July 26, 2013, the Abelson panel submitted a 182-page report to MIT president, L. Rafael Reif, who authorized its public release on July 30. The panel reported that MIT had not supported charges against Swartz and cleared the institution of wrongdoing. However, its report also noted that despite MIT's advocacy for open access culture at the institutional level and beyond, the university never extended that support to Swartz. The report revealed, for example, that while MIT considered the possibility of issuing a public statement about its position on the case, it never materialized.
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 Ortiz, "for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz." A similar petition was submitted calling for prosecutor Stephen Heymann's firing.
In January 2015, two years after Swartz’s death, the White House declined both petitions.
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?"
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, 2013, Issa and ranking committee member Elijah Cummings published a letter to U.S. Attorney General Holder, questioning why federal prosecutors had filed the superseding indictment.
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-Kauffman 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 good use of prosecutorial discretion." Stinebrickner-Kauffman issued a statement in reply, repeating and amplifying her claims of prosecutorial misconduct. Public documents, she wrote, reveal that prosecutor Stephen Heymann "instructed the Secret Service to seize and hold evidence without a warrant... lied to the judge about that fact in written briefs... [and] withheld exculpatory evidence... for over a year," violating his legal and ethical obligations to turn it over.
On March 22, Senator 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
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
In 2013, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a bill, Aaron's Law (H.R. 2454, S. 1196) to exclude terms of service violations from the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and from the wire fraud statute.
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 as "The Other Aaron's Law."
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced the Senate version, in 2013 and again in 2015, while the bill was introduced to the House by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Kevin Yoder (R-Kans.). Senator Wyden wrote of the bill, "the FASTR act provides that access to taxpayer funded research should never be hidden behind a paywall."
While the legislation has not passed as of October 2015[update], it has helped to prompt some motion toward more open access on the part of the US administration. Shortly after the bill's original introduction, the Office of Science and Technology Policy directed "each Federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government."
|Induction Ceremony – Aaron Swartz Video on YouTube|
Over the weekend of November 8–10, 2013, inspired by Swartz's work and life, a second annual hackathon was held in at least 16 cities around the world. Preliminary topics worked on at the 2013 Aaron Swartz Hackathon were privacy and software tools, transparency, activism, access, legal fixes, and a low-cost book scanner.
- Swartz, Aaron; Lucchese, Adriano (November 2014), Raw Thought, Raw Nerve: Inside the Mind of Aaron Swartz ( PDF/ePub), New York, NY: Discovery Publisher.
- Swartz, Aaron; Hendler, James (October 2001), "The Semantic Web: A network of content for the digital city", Proceedings of the Second Annual Digital Cities Workshop, Kyoto, JP: Blogspace.
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To Dan Connolly, who not only created the Web but found time to teach it to me.
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Aaron Hillel Swartz was not depressed or suicidal ... a rabbi’s wife who has known him since he was a child says.... At age 13 he won the ArsDigita Prize, a competition for young people who create noncommercial websites....
- Skaggs, Paula (January 16, 2013). "Aaron Swartz Remembered as Internet Activist who Changed the World". Patch.
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Swartz helped create RSS—a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works (blog entries, news headlines, ...) in a standardized format—at the age of 14.
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Aaron was one of the early architects of Creative Commons. As a teenager, he helped design the code layer to our licenses...
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Web.py, the brainchild of Aaron Swartz, who developed it while working at Reddit.com, describes itself as a ‘minimalist’s framework.’ ... Test Center Scorecard: Capability 7; Ease of Development 9; Documentation 7; ...; Overall Score 7.6, Good.
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[Swartz] was in the middle of a fellowship at Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, in its Lab on Institutional Corruption
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During the fellowship year, he will conduct experimental and ethnographic studies of the political system to prepare a monograph on the mechanisms of political corruption.
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[Swartz's] alleged use of MIT facilities and Web connections to access the JSTOR database ... resulted in two state felony charges for breaking into a ‘depository' and breaking & entering in the daytime, according to local prosecutors.
- Commonwealth v. Swartz, 11-52CR73 & 11-52CR75, MIT Police Incident Report 11-351 (Mass. Dist. Ct. nolle prosequi December 16, 2011) (“Captain Albert P[...] and Special Agent Pickett were able to apprehend the suspect at 24 Lee Street.... He was arrested for two counts of Breaking and Entering in the daytime with the intent to commit a felony....”).
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- Press release from the Internet Hall of Fame.
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We negotiated for months.... I started going crazy from having to think so much about money.... The company almost fell apart before the deal went through.
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Swartz ... attended North Shore Country Day School through 9th grade.
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I would have been in 10th grade this year.... Now I'm taking a couple classes at a local college.
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At 13 [he] won an ArsDigita prize for creating The Info Network.
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A media type for use with the Extensible Markup Language serialization of the Resource Description Framework.... [It] allows RDF consumers to identify RDF/XML documents....
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- "Daring Fireball – Markdown – Syntax".
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He founded watchdog.net to aggregate ... data about politicians – including where their money comes from.
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Founder Aaron Swartz ... We’re funded by a grant from the Sunlight Network and the Sunlight Foundation.
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We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks.
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In a 2008 ‘Guerilla Open Access Manifesto,' Swartz called for activists to ‘fight back' against services that held academic papers hostage behind paywalls.
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As Doctorow made clear in his eloquent obituary, he drew 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. ... One of the book's two afterwords is by Swartz.
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JSTOR's attorney, Mary Jo White — formerly the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan — had called the lead Boston prosecutor in the case and asked him to drop it, said Peters.
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[T]he ‘Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeiting Act' ... was introduced on September 20th, 2010.... And [then] it began being called PIPA, and eventually SOPA.
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JSTOR's integrated digital platform is a trusted digital repository providing for long-term preservation and access to ... scholarly materials: journal issues ...; manuscripts and monographs; ...; spatial/geographic information systems data; plant specimens; ...
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[Swartz] wrote a script that instructed his computer to download articles continuously, something that was forbidden by JSTOR's terms of service.... He spoofed the computer's address.... This happened several times. MIT traced the requests to his laptop, which he had hidden in an unlocked closet.
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‘Suspect is seen on camera entering network closet' [in an unlocked building].... Within a mile of MIT ... he was stopped by an MIT police captain and [U.S. Secret Service agent] Pickett.
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The superseding indictment ... claimed that Swartz had ‘contrived to break into a restricted-access wiring closet at MIT.' But the closet door had been unlocked—and remained unlocked even after the university and authorities were aware that someone had been in there trying to access the school's network.
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The wiring closet was not locked and was accessible to the public. If you look at the pictures supplied by the Government, you can see graffiti on one wall.
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January 6, 2:20 p.m., Aaron Swartz, was arrested at 24 Lee Street as a suspect for breaking and entering....
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Swartz is accused ... of stealing the articles by attaching a laptop directly to a network switch in ... a ‘restricted' room, though neither the police report nor the indictment [mentions] a door lock or signage indicating the room is off-limits.
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Swartz ... was indicted ... in Middlesex Superior Court ... for breaking and entering, larceny over $250, and unauthorized access to a computer network.
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Swartz ... was indicted today on charges of Breaking and Entering with Intent to Commit a Felony, Larceny over $250, and Unauthorized Access to a Computer Network by a Middlesex Superior Grand Jury.
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Swartz ... left no note before his Friday morning death in the seventh-floor apartment at a luxury Sullivan Place building, police sources said.
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Aaron consulted me as a friend and lawyer.... [M]y obligations to Harvard created a conflict that made it impossible for me to continue as a lawyer.... I get wrong. But I also get proportionality.
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With the government's position hardening, Mr. Swartz realized that he would have to face a costly public trial.... He would need to ask for help financing his defense....
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Swartz's father ... said that at a school event, 3-year-old Aaron read to his parents while all of the other parents read to their children.
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That belief — that information should be shared and available for the good of society — prompted Swartz to found the nonprofit group Demand Progress.
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A mail loop caused by a series of malformed email messages led to an exhaustion of system resources....
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hacked by aush0k and tibitximer
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Is there sense in following [the] rules or are they just another example of the world's pervasive immorality?
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From 11:58 a.m. to 1:05 p.m., MIT's DNS was redirected ... to CloudFlare, where the hackers had configured servers to return a Harvard IP address.... By 7:15 p.m., CloudFlare removed the ‘mail.mit.edu' record, which referred to the machine ... at KAIST.
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‘Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed,' the statement said.
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The hackers ... said the site was chosen for symbolic reasons. ‘The federal sentencing guidelines ... enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial ...,' the video statement said.
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The material is published in honor of Aaron Swartz in springer-lta.co.nf. [Author’s pseudonym is an anagram of “aaron swartz”.]
- "Swartz' death fuels debate over computer crime". Usatoday.com. January 14, 2013. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
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- "President Reif writes to MIT community regarding Aaron Swartz" (Press release). MIT. January 13, 2013.
I have asked ... Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010....
- "homepage". Swartz Review. MIT. January 23, 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-02-06.
IS&T has created this web site so [community members] can suggest questions and issues to guide the review... What questions should MIT be asking at this stage of the Aaron Swartz review?
- Nanos, Janelle (January 24, 2013). "MIT prof announces plans for Swartz review: A website is launched allowing for discussion of how his case was handled". Boston Magazine.
- "MIT and Aaron Swartz's lawyers argue over releasing evidence". Techdirt. March 20, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
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- "CAS – Central Authentication Service". Alum.mit.edu. Retrieved 2014-07-21.
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- "Report to the President: MIT and the Prosecution of Aaron Swartz" (PDF). Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
- "Petition: "Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz."". Wh.gov. January 12, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- Smith, Gerry (January 13, 2013). "Were The Charges Against Internet Activist Aaron Swartz Too Severe?". Huffington Post.
- "Fire Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann". Wh.gov petition. January 12, 2013. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- Glenn Greenwald (January 16, 2013). "Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann: accountability for prosecutorial abuse | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- "Convicted hacker Stephen Watt on Aaron Swartz: ‘It's just not justice'". VentureBeat. January 25, 2013. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- Fung, Brian; Peterson, Andrea (January 8, 2015). "After long delay, Obama declines to rule on petition calling for firing of DOJ officials over Aaron Swartz’s suicide". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
- Sasso, Brendan; Jennifer Martinez (January 15, 2013). "Lawmakers slam DOJ prosecution of Swartz as ‘ridiculous, absurd'". Hillicon Valley. The Hill.
- Reilly, Ryan J. (January 15, 2013). "Darrell Issa Probing Prosecution Of Aaron Swartz, Internet Pioneer Who Killed Himself". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- Pearce, Matt (January 18, 2013). "Aaron Swartz suicide has U.S. lawmakers scrutinizing prosecutors". latimes.com. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- Carter, Zach (January 18, 2013). "John Cornyn Criticizes Eric Holder Over Aaron Swartz's Death". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- "Top senator scolds Holder over Reddit founder's suicide". Washington Times. January 18, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- "Issa letter to Holder on Aaron Swartz case" (PDF). Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- Boeri, David and David Frank, Ortiz Under Fire: Critics Say Swartz Tragedy Is Evidence Of Troublesome Pattern, WBUR, 20 February 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
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- Masnick, Mike (March 8, 2013). "Aaron Swartz's partner accuses DOJ of lying, seizing evidence without a warrant & withholding exculpatory evidence". Techdirt.
- Carter, Zach (March 22, 2013). "Al Franken Sends Eric Holder Letter Over 'Remarkably Aggressive' Aaron Swartz Prosecution". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
- H.R. 2454 at Congress.gov; H.R. 2454 at GovTrack; H.R. 2454 at OpenCongress. S. 1196 at Congress.gov; S. 1196 at GovTrack; S. 1196 at OpenCongress.
- Musil, Steven (November 30, 2011). "New 'Aaron's Law' aims to alter controversial computer fraud law". Internet & Media News. CNET. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
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- Kerr, Oren, Aaron's Law, Drafting the Best Limits of the CFAA, And A Reader Poll on A Few Examples Volokh Conspiracy, 27 January 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
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- "Reform Draconian Computer Crime Law". Action.eff.org. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
- Lawrence Lessig. "the next words: A Lecture on Aaron's Law". Lessig. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
- "Transcript: Lawrence Lessig on 'Aaron's Laws: Law and Justice in a Digital Age'".
- "Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review – A summary of Lawrence Lessig's Chair Lecture at Harvard Law School". Harvardcrcl.org. January 14, 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
- Dekel, Jonathan (May 1, 2014). "Swartz doc director: Oracle and Larry Ellison killed Aaron’s Law". Postmedia.
- Peterson, Andrea (February 16, 2013). "How FASTR Will Help Americans". Thinkprogress.org. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
- "Wyden Bill Makes Taxpayer Funded Research Available to the Public | Press Releases | U.S. Senator Ron Wyden". Wyden.senate.gov. February 14, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
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- "Aaron Swartz Hackathon". Archived from the original on 29 March 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
- Higgins, Parker (November 6, 2001). "Aaron Swartz Hackathons This Weekend to Continue his Work". Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- Rocheleau, Matt (October 21, 2013). "In Aaron Swartz' memory, hackathons to be held across globe, including at MIT, next month". Boston. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "Worldwide Aaron Swartz Memorial Hackathon Series". Noisebridge. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
- "Aaron projects". Noisebridge. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
- Lessig, Lawrence (10 January 2014). "Aaron's Walk: The New Hampshire Rebellion". Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- Boyko, Brian (11 January 2014). "It Begins. Thank you.". Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- "Not A Bug, Inc.: Private company information". Bloomberg Business. 2006-10-31. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
The company owns and operates portals that allow users to post contents and create Websites.... As of October 31, 2006, [it] is a subsidiary of CondéNet, Inc.... Key Executives for Not A Bug, Inc.: ... Huffman, President and Director; ... Swartz, Treasurer and Director; ... Ohanian, Secretary and Director.
- "There was a third ‘co-founder’ of reddit", Today I Learned, Reddit, 2010-10-18,
Aaron isn’t a founder of reddit.
- Nanos, Janelle (January 2014). "Losing Aaron". Boston.
- Poulsen, Kevin. "MIT Moves to Intervene in Release of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service File." Wired. July 18, 2013.
- Brian Knappenberger (Producer and Director), The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Participant Media: 2014. Via The Internet Archive, www.archive.org/ Run time: 105 minutes.
- Ali Akbarzadeh (Director), Killswitch: The Battle to Control the Internet, Akorn Entertainment: 2014
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- Official website
- Wikipedia user page (2004–2013)
- Aaron Swartz on Twitter
- Remembrances (2013– ), with obituary and official statement from family and partner
- The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, The Documentary Network, June 29, 2014, a film by Brian Knappenberger - Luminant Media
- How can we further Aaron's legacy? – LinkedIn Post featuring the documentary: Internet’s Own Boy: The story of Aaron Swartz
- The Aaron Swartz Collection at Internet Archive (2013– ) (podcasts, e-mail correspondence, other materials)
- Guerilla Open Access Manifesto
- Aaron Swartz at the Internet Movie Database
- Posting about Swartz as Wikipedia contributor (2013), at The Wikipedian
- Case Docket: US v. Swartz
- Report to the President: MIT and the Prosecution of Aaron Swartz
- JSTOR Evidence in United States vs. Aaron Swartz – A collection of documents and events from JSTOR's perspective. Hundreds of emails and other documents they provided the government concerning the case.
- https://swartzfiles.com/ Federal law enforcement documents about Aaron Swartz, released under the Freedom of Information Act