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Submitted on
January 30, 2013
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Aaron Swartz by Rabadenzo Aaron Swartz by Rabadenzo
Aaron Swartz was one of the four developers of Reddit, was involved in developing RSS and Creative Commons, and was an internet activist. The Economist nicknamed him the Data Liberator in his obituary ([link]). He was actively involved in developing and improving the freedom of information. For example, he hacked into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's computer network and downloaded Academic Journals of the JSTOR (Journal-STORage), only to put them in public archives. He considered it morally wrong to charge for access to the JSTOR when the research of those journals was publicly funded.

He died on January 11th by suicide, after he charged for 13 counts, facing up to 35 years. The charges, brought by a federal prosecutor, were hugely disproportionate to what he had done; MIT and JSTOR had both settled with him, and JSTOR, as if chastened by him, had even opened some of its public-domain archive. But theft was theft, said the prosecution.

This is the most work I've ever put into a stencil, and even though the text (Information is power. But like all power, there are some who want to keep it for themselves) came out not too well, I myself am very satisfied by the results. I advise you all to zoom out (CTRL-minus) to see the face, or zoom in to read the text.
He is an hero and should not be forgotten.
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Thank you for doing this. I think of Aaron Swartz almost daily. His suicide affected me a lot, though I never knew him (had been aware of his work on rss and the wikipedia analysis). He still has his book lists online - the books he read each year that he recorded them - and I've been going through them and discovering a lot. Thanks for this tribute. 
Rabadenzo Nov 14, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I started this as soon as I read his obituary in the Economist. He won't be forgotten. Thank you for your appriciation
heminder Feb 9, 2013  Professional
Technically, he didn't even "hack".
He was on MIT's own campus, accessing publicly funded research papers.
Rabadenzo Feb 14, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
"And it was in a cupboard—an unlocked wiring cupboard, where a homeless man kept stuff—that in November 2010 he surreptitiously placed a laptop, hidden under a box, and plugged it directly into the computer network at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (...) He already had access to the library network; no need to hack into the system. He just ran a script, called, which liberated 4.8m articles at almost dangerous speed. MIT tried to block him, but time after time he outwitted them; and then, as a last resort, he plugged in the laptop in the cupboard." [link]

I guess I misread that. But even though technically speaking that cupboard was part of MIT's own campus, I think you will agree that this way of accessing data did not fully comply with the code of conduct, right?
I like the mix of idealism in his actions and pragmatism in their execution. He'd make a great liberator.
heminder Feb 14, 2013  Professional
It's like going into a library and reading lots of books at once, he just used a script to fetch them all. There's nothing abnormal in his actions, unless MIT had a policy claiming users can only read a limited number of articles (and if they do then it should be questioned).
Rabadenzo Apr 27, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Its a shame he had to go like this.
I had seen some YT videos about him. That was just awful about what happened to that guy. He got harassed terribly. If you watch enough of those TY videos with him on it, you can see why it was unfair compared to other charges vs. the ones he was charged with. Poor guy died too young.
Rabadenzo Jan 31, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Have you seen this video yet? [link]
I believe that if we carry on his message, he has not died in vain.
He may have died too young, but as far as I know, he still lives on in the minds of many.
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