Aaron Swartz, 1986-2013

Posted on January 14, 2013 by | Posted in News, on the web | Comments: 14 Comments on Aaron Swartz, 1986-2013

This weekend the Public Domain lost one of its most gifted and passionate advocates when Aaron Swartz committed suicide, at age 26.

Aaron was a programmer, a campaigner for social justice, and a believer that the public domain truly belongs to the public. He helped create Reddit, was a chief architect of the Open Library and Creative Commons, was a founder of Demand Progress, which helped defeat SOPA, and kept the Internet open, safe for projects such as LibriVox.

Aaron, who had written publicly about past experience with depression, killed himself two years after he was arrested for downloading, at MIT, millions of academic journal articles (many in the public domain) from JSTOR, a non-profit journal repository. The authorities were seeking punishment of 35 years in jail, $1 million in fines. It’s been estimated that his defense would have cost $1.5 million in legal fees.

It’s hard to express the scale of loss to all of us, the community of the Internet. I met Aaron only once, but I’ve admired his work for years. By 26, he had done more than most of us will ever do in our lifetimes, driven by his vision of the public good. While it is always shocking when someone we have met dies, the greatest pain is contemplating everything that Aaron Swartz would have done for the world, which he will never get the chance to do.

And so, those of us who were inspired by Aaron’s vision of the world — perhaps some of you who are just now discovering what Aaron stood for — are left to contemplate a future where it is up to us, without Aaron’s help, to make the world a better place. I hope we don’t let him down.

— Hugh

If you’d like to read a bit more about Aaron:



  1. Well said, my friend. :(

  2. Very sad news. RIP Aaron.

  3. Steven Boyle says:

    RIP Aaron

  4. Thanks, Hugh

    As I promised here is my French translation of your necrology:


  5. Carlos Nunez says:

    Terrible news.

  6. Elly says:

    I have hard time downloading to books to listen.

  7. LibriVoxer says:

    What’s the problem, Elly? Perhaps this page in our Wiki will help: http://wiki.librivox.org/index.php/How_To_Get_LibriVox_Audio_Files

  8. Joe Patton says:

    Rarely am I moved by the news of someone unrelated to me in any way passing on but this seems like a real tragedy Aaron really seemed like an advocate for the righting of wrongs that bother many of us. RIP truly

  9. Aaron Swartz is not dead, he will live until humanity and love for justice lives. Great people never dies.

  10. Raymond Lutz says:

    je ne fais que recopier ici les importantes paroles de Matt Stoller sur nakedcapitalism:

    “I think it’s important that, as we remember him, we remember that Aaron had a much broader agenda than the information freedom fights for which he had become known. (…) I knew Aaron as a political activist interested in health care, financial corruption, and the drug war (we were working on a project on that just before he died) ”

    “I want to make a few points about why it’s not just sad that he is gone, but a tragedy, a symbol for all of us, and a call to action.

    Aaron suffered from depression, but that is not why he died. Aaron is dead because the institutions that govern our society have decided that it is more important to target geniuses like Aaron than nurture them, because the values he sought – openness, justice, curiosity – are values these institutions now oppose”

    from http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/01/aaron-swartzs-politics.html

  11. 1 says:

    WORLD OLIGARCHY… Rest in peace. Aaron. At present we only can just name the HEROS befallen in this struggle. You are one of them. Rest in peace.

  12. Speaker Dude says:

    Rest in peace, you champion openness and Justice. You are outspoken about better healthcare for all, financial corruption and the the deadly drug war. Somehow, i know your work will continue.

  13. Mary M. says:

    I wish the best for his family. I too am a MIT grad and suffer from major depression. It is very sad, as so eloquently stated above that some of the smartest people are persecuted instead of listened to and possibly cause some long needed changes in society. I also recognize Aaron was not only brave enough to take “them” on but was able to make more of an impact in his young life than most of us can muster in a lifetime. May you have peace, Aaron, in a greater place. I for one look forward to meeting you there so one day I can shake your hand. Parents, he is finished with the unbelievable turmoil now of a system gone awry. Bless you for bringing him into this world and how proud you should be for that. Suicide is not ever a selfish choice and should have never been thought of as such. Even when paired with depression suicide comes with a greater courage very few understand. Aaron knew that, I know that and I hope you can rest in peace here until you meet him again with that in mind.

  14. Vanessa says:

    I am sorry I never met you. Thank for the things you’ve done to make the world a better place. May you find the peace you have been looking for. God bless.

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