Aaron Swartz, programmer and Internet activist who helped scrap the Stop Online Piracy Act bill from passing in Congress through his Demand Progress group, has died.
Reuters reports Swartz died of “an apparent suicide,” on Friday, January 11.
According to the office of New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner, Swartz was found hanging in his Brooklyn apartment.
Reports state he had a history of depression, and for the last two years had been fighting federal hacking charges brought on by prosecutor Scott Garland of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s Office. Swartz has been charged with four counts of felony misconduct, charges which many experts on the matter felt were “outrageous.”
His charges steamed from downloading academic journal articles from the online database JSTOR for students and researchers. Swartz was allowed access to these as a faculty member at Harvard University.
Swartz downloaded the documents over few weeks from a library at MIT, when he found a “door” of sorts which allowed him to download more than the daily allotment. JSTOR’s servers were shut down briefly over the number of documents being downloaded at a time, which caused MIT’s library to be being blocked by JSTOR “for a few days.”
While JSTOR and MIT agreed his actions were a breach of the Terms of Service agreement, neither wished to press civil or criminal charges against Swartz for his actions.
Garland’s argument was that Swartz committed a federal crime and stood to “gain financially” from the free files.
“Aaron Swartz devised a scheme to defraud JSTOR of a substantial number of journal articles which they had invested in collecting, obtaining the rights to distribute and digitizing,” the indictment read. “He sought to defraud MIT and JSTOR of rights and property.”
The Huffington Post has more on the charges brought against Swartz, and you should give it a read when you have a moment.
Swartz co-authored RSS 1.0 and founded Infogami which was later merged with Reddit.
VG247 offers our sincerest condolences to Swartz’s family, friends, and colleagues.