This film follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.
– In 2008, Swartz downloaded and released about 2.7 million federal court documents stored in the PACER (Public Access to
Court Electronic Records) database managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which are PUBLIC FILES, but ONLY ACCESSED THROUGH HIGHLY RESTRICTED FEES AND REGULATIONS!
2010: According to state and federal authorities, Swartz used JSTOR, a digital repository, to download a large number of academic journal articles through MIT’s computer network over the course of a few weeks in late 2010 and early 2011 AND RELEASED FREE PUBLIC ACCESS TO THEM!
2011: On July 11, 2011, Swartz was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and recklessly damaging a protected computer.
2012: On September 12, 2012, federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment adding nine more felony counts, which increased Swartz’s maximum criminal exposure to 50 years of imprisonment and $1 million in fines.