Internet pioneer, activist and Demand Progress founder Aaron Swartz has committed suicide in New York. He was 26. His family and friends blame his death on an impending criminal prosecution for downloading academic data for release into the public domain.
The star of Aaron Swartz burnt brighter than most. At 14 he was one of the creators of an early version of RSS. He helped develop Reddit and founded the wiki platform Infogami, which is used to support the Open Library website.
Cory Doctorow blogs: "His stunts were breathtaking. At one point, he singlehandedly liberated 20 percent of US law. PACER, the system that gives Americans access to their own (public domain) case-law, charged a fee for each such access. After activists built RECAP (which allowed its users to put any caselaw they paid for into a free/public repository), Aaron spent a small fortune fetching a titanic amount of data and putting it into the public domain. The feds hated this. They smeared him, the FBI investigated him, and for a while, it looked like he'd be on the pointy end of some bad legal stuff, but he escaped it all, and emerged triumphant."
He founded the internet activist organisation Demand Progress, whose site displays this message:
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Demand Progress’s Aaron Swartz. Friends and family have issued a statement and created a memorial page. A memorial fund is being organized, and we will post details when they are ready."