Aaron Swartz commits suicide

There is only one thing certain in this life; we will all eventually die. Depending on what you believe, it’s either part of a grander plan or simple science. Regardless, it’s never easy to hear of someone taking their own life.

So it’s with great sadness that one of our own, Aaron Swartz, committed suicide on January 11th at the tender age of 26. Swatrz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of Kecker and Van Nest confirmed the news via email to The Tech:

The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true.

You could easily say the man was a genius. He co-authored the RSS 1.0 specification at just 14 years old and was one of the co-owners of Reddit, following the merger of his software company, Infogami, with the social news giant.

It wasn’t all success for Swartz though. In July 2011 he was indicted by a federal grand jury on counts of wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer. He mass downloaded over 4 million academic documents from JSTOR with the intention of distributing them.

Nevertheless, we can all look beyond the negative and look back on what he achieved in such a short time. RSS is an Internet standard, widely used by many sites, and Reddit might not be what it is now if not for his contributions.

R.I.P.

Source: The Tech | Image courtesy of Harvard Law Blog

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If the expected punishment would have been like 5 years instead of life, maybe he'd be still be here.

Murderers or rapists are given light sentences when their victims are either dead or scarred for life. In capitalist society, a company is an individual - a very rich individual and that's why Aaron got life. But the murder or rape victims aren't so rich, so their attackers get loose sentences.

Just my opinion about why Aaron took his life because nobody on earth understood the injustice he was served.

Thankfully, we don't have jackasses here like Cory Doctrow at BB, so I'll be able to post my personal thoughts about this whole incident here (in short, Mr. Doctrow used his over-inflated ego to ban-hammer me because my comments didn't fit in lock-step with all of the "he-did-nothing-wrong" comnments on the thread at BB) without threat of the ban-hammer from an over-blown ego like Mr. Doctrow.

Aaron's suicide is sad and senseless. His contributions were many (Reddit, RSS, Creative Commons). He stated in many other places and times on the Interwebtubes that he *did* suffer from Depression. His loss will be felt by many, but let us not forget the salient facts in this case - regardless of the glossing-over that expert witness Alex Stamos gave concerning the charges against Aaron:

1) Regardless of the fact that the MIT network segment he was accessing was "open", he was *not* an MIT student and did not have any implied rights of access to the JSTOR files.

2)He surrepticiously installed a laptop in a wiring closet - regardless of whether it was a locked closet or not - that he did not have implied access to, in order to continue his "gleaning" of the JSTOR files

Basically, he broke the law. Yes, the sentencing range (35+ years) may seem extreme to many, but in such cases the sentencing range is based upon the perceived value of the theft, and precedent has already been set concerning the reception of data files or content that one is not permitted to gain access to or be in posession of.

Anyone that starts whining about "The ends justifies the means" in this case is corrupt as they claim the US Government to be.

what gets me is the fact that he got 50yrs where in most cases murders and rapists get far less WTF is up with that he should have gotten 5yrs in Leavenworth and be done with it

some of the comments i read on neowin make me sick. who are you to judge him? this is why i rarely come on here anymore, people are too judgmental.

Sorry for his family, but since he was an "activist", and had alleged stolen millions of documents, perhaps his FEAR of being sent to a FEDERAL PRISON is what lead him to take his own life.
No one will ever know.

naap51stang said,
Sorry for his family, but since he was an "activist", and had alleged stolen millions of documents, perhaps his FEAR of being sent to a FEDERAL PRISON is what lead him to take his own life.
No one will ever know.

Federal prison for research papers?

Research papers written by MIT researchers for MIT students and researchers that had associated costs with that research of *MILLIONS* of dollars.

What part of that don't you get? Did you actually read-up on the case, or is this a knee-jerk reaction coming from another site?

In the US copying digital information with the intent to help others is worth life in prison, while defrauding the public of billions of dollars and destroying families, starting illegal wars, that's not a crime at all!

What a great country we live in. And to those saying he was a coward and selfish, have some compassion. Life is the most personal thing there is, no one should live their life for others.

Aaron did not have implied permission to access MIT's network.

Aaron did not have implied permission to surrepticiously install a laptop in a wiring closet (locked or not) to continue to have non-implied access to the JSTORS dataset.

In the world we live in, that's called a crime. To me, it sounds like it's more along the lines of "doing-it-for-the-lulz" for you.

In regards to your comment about living one's life for others:

"A selfish man is willing to give up his life for a cause, while a wise man lives his life for a cause"

You seem to me the kind of man who blindly accepts the law, forgetting law can be wrong and can be changed. We can disagree with law, we can voice our disagreement, and sometimes that voice can change the law.

Honestly I supported him in the JSTOR incident. Knowledge MUST be public. It's not like he obtained secret documents or personal data, it was just a bunch of research articles and papers that he intended to distribute for free. That does not deserve life-time jail.

Ok, say you spent years researching a topic, spent a lot of time, energy, and perhaps money to publish copyrighted material, have it published and you make money of its publication and royalties for said publications. Now, some snot nose kid comes along, steals it, and posts it on the web for anyone to download for free. Would YOU not be ticked off?

No, because most of the money we researchers make come from the institutions that finance our investigations. The rest comes from conferences, publishing rights and academic partnerships. None of that is affected if the document is available to the public.

What good is a research for if it's not available for the public?

naap51stang said,
Ok, say you spent years researching a topic, spent a lot of time, energy, and perhaps money to publish copyrighted material, have it published and you make money of its publication and royalties for said publications. Now, some snot nose kid comes along, steals it, and posts it on the web for anyone to download for free. Would YOU not be ticked off?

You obviously don't know what a paywall is

Why is everyone putting R.I.P? The kid took his own life, not caring about people he left behind. He ended his life not giving a **** about anyone but himself so I refuse to care about him. No RIP for you, you selfish turd.

Colin McGregor said,
Why is everyone putting R.I.P?

To him, and nobody will ever know, his life may have been anything but peace and he was seeking it. None of us ever know exactly why one decides to choose this path. Some may be looking to escape personal torment for their own peace, and others may think they're bringing peace to their family by "getting rid of a bad egg." It really isn't our place to judge.

Colin McGregor said,
Why is everyone putting R.I.P? The kid took his own life, not caring about people he left behind. He ended his life not giving a **** about anyone but himself so I refuse to care about him. No RIP for you, you selfish turd.

Until you have walked a mile in another persons shoes don't think you now what it is like. You sound like you are basing your judgement and anger towards what you think was cowardly and selfishness. Depression is an "actual" disease as well as other environmental factors could have been a catalyst to him taking his own life. You have no clue about since you were not him.

Until you are looking down at the end of a barrel you can't say you know what you would do. No one does.

Don't cast stones in that glass house.

Tuishimi said,
You sound like you have had a friend or family member who did the same.

2 friends did it and its always ****ed me off when others do it. Its selfish and ignorant. Unless your terminal theres always a way out of suicide.

Very sad and my thoughts go out to his friends and family left behind. Regardless of your views about suicide itself and what it is or isn't, he still leaves behind a family, friends, and a community who cared for him. Unless you've experienced what it is like to lose someone to suicide (I have) and be left behind wondering "why" you may want to refrain from making inexperienced comments. I made similar comments before experiencing it myself, and now I have a whole other view. :[

In the US this is a great organization for those left behind to become involved with if not only to surround yourself with a community that understands your emotions and what you are going through. http://www.afsp.org/

People stop speculating on why he did it. In many cases without a note left behind it is ALL speculation.

He has mentioned suicide before he was caught for the JSTOR incident and at that young of an age to have been known for his accomplishments many other factors plays a part in his life that many of us cannot understand/comprehend. There are external pressures as well as internal pressures to continue on his path to accomplishments.

Many great minds leave this earth early but they also leave it with a great mark on society at times.

My condolences to his family and friends and I hope the jokes are kept to a minimum.

Thanks guys. i know it's no joke, the thing is in my country, therapist use is not common. I know it's cowardly way out and my family will be devastated. That's what stops me. I hope I will be fine.

more importantly he was also opposed to SOPA/PIPA bills. his utopian world of freedom and equality probably exploded upon touch with reality. For such guys crash landing can only be avoided with serious whittling down of the fire within and then the talent is lost into mediocrity.

theyarecomingforyou said,

And I have little respect for people like you who show nothing but contempt for the dead.


Nice try, but I don't really care.

Not sure why he had to do all the criminal activity. He seemed smart enough to make it in life doing productive things. He obviously had bad judgment and made the ultimate wrong decision.

Enron said,
Not sure why he had to do all the criminal activity. He seemed smart enough to make it in life doing productive things. He obviously had bad judgment and made the ultimate wrong decision.

They are were tech related........Nothing that physically damages people.

Enron said,
Not sure why he had to do all the criminal activity. He seemed smart enough to make it in life doing productive things. He obviously had bad judgment and made the ultimate wrong decision.

Sometimes you just become a criminal with no intention to commit a crime. That is very easy to do in the digital world.

Maybe those little songs you have could put you in jail too?

Luis Mazza said,

Sometimes you just become a criminal with no intention to commit a crime. That is very easy to do in the digital world.

Maybe those little songs you have could put you in jail too?

What little songs? I got Xbox music pass, I'm legit.

There was a very high chance he was going to prison for life for trying to leak secret documents, like Julian Assange, the US Government didn't take too kindly for this.

It is sad news, but MANY people around the world have the view of suicide as cowardly and selfish - that is not some media brainwash; good try on being rebellious, against the man, or whatever you were attempting...

with that said, I only recently started using Reddit in the past few months and really enjoy it, so I am glad this guy was able to do some great stuff before he passed.

Hahaiah said,
Cowardly? Why not regurgitate more stupid ****ing statements the media programs you to say. Jackasses.

It is sad news, but MANY people around the world have the view of suicide as cowardly and selfish - that is not some media brainwash; good try on being rebellious, against the man, or whatever you were attempting...

with that said, I only recently started using Reddit in the past few months and really enjoy it, so I am glad this guy was able to do some great stuff before he passed.

Alladaskill17 said,

It is sad news, but MANY people around the world have the view of suicide as cowardly and selfish - that is not some media brainwash; good try on being rebellious, against the man, or whatever you were attempting...

with that said, I only recently started using Reddit in the past few months and really enjoy it, so I am glad this guy was able to do some great stuff before he passed.

Nothing to do with cowardice. You have to be VERY courageous to commit suicide. Maybe you just have no patience to live anymore. Group suicide is another story... Groups can fight over something, but choose not to. It's rare though...

About being selfish... Why would that be selfish? The life is yours, it's up to you to live it or not. Also, he had no kids to worry about, nor dependents of his life.

Luis Mazza said,

Nothing to do with cowardice. You have to be VERY courageous to commit suicide. Maybe you just have no patience to live anymore. Group suicide is another story... Groups can fight over something, but choose not to. It's rare though...

About being selfish... Why would that be selfish? The life is yours, it's up to you to live it or not. Also, he had no kids to worry about, nor dependents of his life.


Well, I'm only guessing but maybe people might see it as cowardice for not "facing the music" as the saying goes for the crimes he did...he committed suicide instead of taking responsibility for his actions. At the same time, to take the one thing you can NEVER have back....could also be considered courageous. In either event, its always sad to see someone feel that they have to take their own life...especially at such a young age.

Steve B said,

Well, I'm only guessing but maybe people might see it as cowardice for not "facing the music" as the saying goes for the crimes he did...he committed suicide instead of taking responsibility for his actions. At the same time, to take the one thing you can NEVER have back....could also be considered courageous. In either event, its always sad to see someone feel that they have to take their own life...especially at such a young age.

I agree partly with what you said.
Every case has it's own particularities. In this case, he was sentenced a lifetime prison for leaking some digital books. I would have done the same, if I were to spend THE REST OF MY LIFE in prison for something so stupid. It's insane.
He was right. It's sad, but he was right.
Anyway, I would have tried to escape to another country before ending my life. But I'd be prepared with a pill, just in case.

Luis Mazza said,

About being selfish... Why would that be selfish? The life is yours, it's up to you to live it or not. Also, he had no kids to worry about, nor dependents of his life.

He had no Mother or Father, brothers or sisters, cousins, nieces or nephews or even friends? How do you think they feel about this? That's why it was selfish.

RatherLargeBear said,

He had no Mother or Father, brothers or sisters, cousins, nieces or nephews or even friends? How do you think they feel about this? That's why it was selfish.

How would you think they'd feel along the 50 years time in jail?

You're wrong.

I wouldn't say cowardly, but not thought out in a right sense of mind. I had a good friend kill himself, left behind a teenage boy. I think in his twisted thoughts that his son would be better off without him but... he really had no clue when he did it. I still feel so badly for him and angry with him to this day (7 years later).

Luis Mazza said,
You have to be VERY courageous to commit suicide.

Yea, only ******* keep on living through the consequences of their actions.

Luis Mazza said,

How would you think they'd feel along the 50 years time in jail?

You're wrong.

Yeah because being dead is much better for your family than going to prison! /s

You're wrong

RatherLargeBear said,

Yeah because being dead is much better for your family than going to prison! /s

You're wrong

I understand why he did that and I agree.... As he is the one who did that, you're wrong. You can only think as a family member, not like him. So your opinion is not important at all.

RatherLargeBear said,
What's there to understand? You don't know why he did it. There was no note left.
You're wrong.

You have no empathy and maybe you didn't even know what happened. The article here on Neowin is pretty much incomplete.
Do your homework before judging and vomiting 'fast food comments' available anywhere... The same old 'coward' and 'selfish'.
I'm done with you.

Luis Mazza said,

You have no empathy and maybe you didn't even know what happened. The article here on Neowin is pretty much incomplete.
Do your homework before judging and vomiting 'fast food comments' available anywhere... The same old 'coward' and 'selfish'.
I'm done with you.

I have plenty of empathy. For his family. They're the ones left behind to pick up the pieces.

RatherLargeBear said,

I have plenty of empathy. For his family. They're the ones left behind to pick up the pieces.

Don't worry, it'll go away in much, much less than 50 years.

RatherLargeBear said,

He had no Mother or Father, brothers or sisters, cousins, nieces or nephews or even friends? How do you think they feel about this? That's why it was selfish.


So theoretically, a person is supposed to continue living a miserable existence just so these other people who supposedly care won't feel bad? Please.

Charisma said,

So theoretically, a person is supposed to continue living a miserable existence just so these other people who supposedly care won't feel bad? Please.

No, theoretically a person would get help from their family and professionals, just like many other people do every minute of every day. Please.

Charisma said,

So theoretically, a person is supposed to continue living a miserable existence just so these other people who supposedly care won't feel bad? Please.

The RatherLargeBear seems to be lacking actual reading and comprehension.

He is ignoring the fact that some problems CANNOT be fixed and death is a sad, but for many, a solution to avoid unnecessary suffering for a long period of time. In this case, 50 years of being raped in prison, beaten up, loneliness, etc... because he messed with the government.
Only so that the family or any other person, like Mr. Bear, who sees from the outside and the comfort of his home, can think: "well, at least he is still alive". Give us a break.

PS: Will you repeat "Give me a break.", Mr. Bear?

SoCalRox said,
Maybe he shouldn't have been stupid and committed felonies. No sympathy for him.

Yes, but he did. Anyway, 50 years is too much. He didn't kill or tortured anyone. He only messed with the government.

Luis Mazza said,

How would you think they'd feel along the 50 years time in jail?

You're wrong.


I'm quite sure each and everyone that cares about him, rather have him serve 50 years in jail then see him take his own life.

You and some others here have absolutely no goddamn clue what they are talking about, I know quite a few families where one has taking his or hers own life, no matter WHAT the reason for suicide was, no matter how horrible. Everyone that loved him or her rather have them alive then any other possible way.

Suicide is a coward way to exit one's life. You leave everyone that cares about you behind in pain.

Luis Mazza said,

The RatherLargeBear seems to be lacking actual reading and comprehension.

He is ignoring the fact that some problems CANNOT be fixed and death is a sad, but for many, a solution to avoid unnecessary suffering for a long period of time. In this case, 50 years of being raped in prison, beaten up, loneliness, etc... because he messed with the government.
Only so that the family or any other person, like Mr. Bear, who sees from the outside and the comfort of his home, can think: "well, at least he is still alive". Give us a break.

PS: Will you repeat "Give me a break.", Mr. Bear?


Only reason to end ones life with lifelong suffering is terminal illness and only after everything is attempted to cure it.
50 years in jail is nothing to a lifetime of pain and suffering to everyone that loved and cared about this young man.

Shadowzz said,

Only reason to end ones life with lifelong suffering is terminal illness and only after everything is attempted to cure it.
50 years in jail is nothing to a lifetime of pain and suffering to everyone that loved and cared about this young man.

He was 26 years old, had no kids. Screw you and his family. That was his life, not yours, not the family's life. He was not incapable of determining if he should live or not... He was very capable and intelligent.
I suppose your ideas come from the comfort of your happy life and dogmas... Good for you. But not for him.

Luis Mazza said,

Nothing to do with cowardice. You have to be VERY courageous to commit suicide. Maybe you just have no patience to live anymore. Group suicide is another story... Groups can fight over something, but choose not to. It's rare though...

About being selfish... Why would that be selfish? The life is yours, it's up to you to live it or not. Also, he had no kids to worry about, nor dependents of his life.


Giving up is courageous these days? Oh snap

Jarrichvdv said,

Giving up is courageous these days? Oh snap

No. As giving up to read the whole thread isn't either. Oh, tell me about snap.

Just shows you how much pressure power, responsibility and money can put on a young man. As a Redditor, I am truly sorry for his loss.

R.I.P

Facing jail time due to the fact that he committed crimes when he had the power to commit them. That makes sense right? I'm not saying it was just the sudden "fame" that led to the suicide, but rather the consequences of becoming famous/powerful.

I'm more stunned at the why. Why would JSTOR wanted to convict this person to life if they were going to share all those articles anyway.

Kinda a bad idea. Could've punished him but so severe.
If I were to see this (from my point of view) I say JSTOR is to blame.

Tony. said,
There was a good chance he was going to get sent to prison for life for trying to leak secret documents online.

Life in prison for trying to leak secret documents online... he'd get off easier if he raped and murdered someone.

May he rest in peace, such a shame that he took the decision to end his own existence, life is too precious and its sad that sometimes it seems the only solution, such a waste

I had to read the headline 3 times before I realised I wasn't reading 'Arnold Schwatzenegger..'
Very sad news tho, specially seeing he's partly responsible for the rss reader I love (if I read the article correctly)