All of us involved in the huge expansion of democratic exchange, intellectual inquiry and creative exploration made possible by the internet are deeply saddened to learn of the suicide of Aaron Swartz yesterday, Friday January 11, in New York. As a teenager Swartz was involved in the launch of Creative Commons, the first concerted attempt to enable free and legal sharing of knowledge and creativity on the internet. Later he was a co-founder of Reddit, the open source platform for community dialogue and shared amusement. More recently he was involved with Demand Progress, an internet-based organizing and lobbying organization focused on civil liberties and civil rights.
In the video link here Swartz talks about his leading role in the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act, SOPA, which would have made it easier for corporate copyright owners to close down websites that shared or linked to online content. Had the bill become law, sites like East of Borneo that allow readers to share information would have been closed down. Aaron Swartz was an important voice for all of us invested in the idea that free flow of information is a vital element of a living culture, and that the unfettered ability to download, re-mix, and share is a fundamental element of our First Amendment rights.
For a moving obituary from his long-time friend, Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing, can be found at the link below.