We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. 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. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access. —— Aaron Swartz, Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto, 2008.
At the time of his suicide, Aaron Swartz was facing federal charges that could lead to thirty or more years in prison, and which would have cost at least $1.5 million to defend, for sneaking a laptop into an MIT cupboard and using it to download journal papers.
The system crushed him for his impertinence. He fought to liberate information. It seems quite likely that he died for it.
What struck me was this: what he did was the kind of thing I would do. It’s the kind of thing I have done. Some of you reading will have, too.