Aaron Swartz: The First Martyr of the Free Information Movement

Posted by Lawrence Liang at Jan 24, 2013 12:26 PM |
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Well known American computer programmer, writer, political organizer and Internet activist died on January 11, 2013. Lawrence Liang from the Alternative Law Forum discusses with Newsclick the tragic loss. The interview was conducted by Prabir Purkayastha.

This interview was originally published by NewsClick on January 19, 2013.


Discussing on the immediate background in which this tragic event happened, Lawrence says that  all of us are collectively mourning the death of an extremely talented individual. He adds that Aaron was facing a very difficult trial ahead. A couple of years ago he had plugged his computer on to the MIT network and had downloaded approximately four million articles from JSTOR (primary database for social science and other science journals) and he had intended to make freely available. This act of his in many ways marks Aaaron's short life but one which is marked by a certain commitment and activism around the idea of free knowledge.

Lawrence further says that his anger at databases like JSTOR was the fact that they were charging extraordinary amounts of money to provide access (which meant that they were not available to most people in the world) without paying any royalty to the authors contributing to the article or to the people who do the peer review of the articles. Here is a scenario which is rent control of the worst kind essentially of knowledge which is completely privatised and enclosed (public knowledge which is enclosed in this particular way).

Most researchers and academics who work and contribute towards making of journals do not get compensated for it but are paid for by public money because they happen to be employed by universities or research centres. And then all this material goes behind pay walls. And that is the context in which we need to understand Aaron's life. Click below to watch the full interview:


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