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The Internet's Own Boy 194

Posted by timothy
from the add-your-review-below dept.
theodp (442580) writes "The Internet's Own Boy, the documentary about the life and death of Aaron Swartz, was appropriately released on the net as well as in theaters this weekend, and is getting good reviews from critics and audiences. Which is kind of remarkable, since the Achilles' heel of this documentary, as critic Matt Pais notes in his review, is that "everyone on the other side of this story, from the government officials who advocated for Swartz's prosecution to Swartz's former Reddit colleagues to folks at MIT, declined participation in the film." Still, writer/director Brian Knappenberger manages to deliver a compelling story, combining interesting footage with interviews from Swartz's parents, brothers, girlfriends, and others from his Internet projects/activism who go through the stages of joy, grief, anger, and hope that one sees from loved ones at a wake. "This remains an important David vs. Goliath story," concludes Pais, "of a remarkable brain years ahead of his age with the courage and will to fight Congress-and a system built to impede, rather than encourage, progress and common sense. The Internet's Own Boy will upset you. As it should." And Quinn Norton, who inadvertently gave the film its title ("He was the Internet's own boy," Quinn said after Swartz's death, "and the old world killed him."), offers some words of advice for documentary viewers: "Your ass will be in a seat watching a movie. When it is done, get up, and do something.""
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The Internet's Own Boy

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  • His choices... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday June 30, 2014 @07:07AM (#47349089) Homepage Journal
    First, I agree that the data should have been free. I even agree that the investigation into him seemed to be heavy handed.

    However, Schwartz made an odd and poor choice in getting to the data. He could have downloaded the data from his own desk in his own office. Instead he went to the library and entered a wiring closet that was clearly not supposed to be open to the public. If he wanted to further his cause, this was a poor choice.
  • Cowards way out (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @07:09AM (#47349093)

    Hes a pussy that took the cowards way out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @07:39AM (#47349221)

    APK, when I see comments like this from people regarding suicides, it tells me immediately that the person making these comments has never felt suicidal. Never been so utterly and completely depressed that death seems the better option at the time. You simply cannot understand this if you have never experienced the feeling.

    The tragedy is that many who do don't make it through the experience. I am glad that I didn't go through with it at that point in my life when it seemed the best option... Although, to be honest, it was really only further self-doubt that delayed taking the final plunge long enough for things to start to turn around.

    It is a tragedy that Aaron Shwartz didn't make it through for things to start getting better, but there is certainly blame to be shared in his case... We ALL, as a society as a whole, failed Aaron imo.

  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Monday June 30, 2014 @07:39AM (#47349223) Homepage

    Which is kind of remarkable, since the Achilles' heel of this documentary, as critic Matt Pais notes in his review, is that "everyone on the other side of this story, from the government officials who advocated for Swartz's prosecution to Swartz's former Reddit colleagues to folks at MIT, declined participation in the film."

    It seems to be entirely unremarkable that a story told from only one perspective - presumably the one that shows the main "character" in a positive light - should get good reviews.

    Tell it from both sides and you risk leaving the audience with unsatisfyingly ambiguous feelings about the whole affair; it's almost as if life isn't black and white!

    No-one likes that in a movie.

  • Re:His choices... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Monday June 30, 2014 @07:48AM (#47349251)

    Because he killed himself because of broken IP laws. You just don't get it, do you? If the laws weren't in place he'd be alive today. It's the **AA that is keeping people like Aaron repressed for their profits.

    While I do feel sorry for what happened to him .. He didn't kill himself because of broken IP laws .. he killed himself because of a mental state that seemed to preclude any option other than suicide. If he had utilized freely and easily obtainable mental health resources(*) he probably would still be alive today.

    * Assuming that such things are actually available.

  • Re:His choices... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Monday June 30, 2014 @07:57AM (#47349301)

    I even agree that the investigation into him seemed to be heavy handed.

    Carmen Ortiz wanted to make a big name for herself with some wealthy media donors in her bid to be elected Governor of Massachusetts.

    Things went a little wrong for her, and someone paid with his life for her political ambitions.

    She's was waiting for all this to be forgotten, until she can campaign again.

    This documentary will make her wait a few more years.

  • Re:His choices... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday June 30, 2014 @08:04AM (#47349339)

    First, I agree that the data should have been free. I even agree that the investigation into him seemed to be heavy handed.

    However, Schwartz made an odd and poor choice in getting to the data. He could have downloaded the data from his own desk in his own office. Instead he went to the library and entered a wiring closet that was clearly not supposed to be open to the public. If he wanted to further his cause, this was a poor choice.

    Most atrocities start with a seemingly simple mistake made by the victim. That doesn't justify ruining a mans life over what was essentially a pretty tame prank. I did worse than that... far worse... while I was in college and all I got was banned from the lab for a week. Of course, when I did it, downloading a file wasn't a federal crime yet.

  • Internet bullies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday June 30, 2014 @08:15AM (#47349411) Journal

    .. he killed himself because of a mental state that seemed to preclude any option other than suicide.

    He was bullied into suicide by believable threats of a 50yr prison sentence from authority, just as surely as that 13yr girl was bullied into suicide by a grown woman on facebook a few years ago. The authorities did everything they could to hang that woman even using facebook terms of services against her, and so they should, it is after all their job. But where are the rabid prosecutors that are taking Swartz's tormentors to task? Why have the authorities not pulled out every trick in the book to hang those official bullies with the same fervor and determination they did when pursuing an uneducated, immature soccer mom?

  • Citation required. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday June 30, 2014 @08:20AM (#47349451) Journal
    If there are such "important cases" happening as you have claimed, it should be easy to provide an example of one of these "unsung heroes" facing a 50yr sentence, right?
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday June 30, 2014 @08:25AM (#47349487)

    And people ask me why I say we're not in any way more free than any other dictatorship. "But we have free speech!" Yeah. But as soon as someone would listen, rest assured that we'll find a way to hang you.

    Or get you to hang yourself, for all we care.

    "But we can have guns!" So? The laws are rigged to ensure the government has the bigger ones AND the media power to ensure you're smeared as the bad guy enough that everyone supports that artillery strike against your cute little fortress.

    You're free to do as you're told.

  • Re:His choices... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by inhuman_4 (1294516) on Monday June 30, 2014 @08:30AM (#47349543)
    For sure he made some poor choices.

    But that doesn't excuse the government response. The justice department had no reason to act in such a heavy handed manner. They quite clearly wanted to make an example of him and were willing to bend the law to do so.

    But the bigger issue here isn't Swartz, it's the fact that this kind of treatment has become common place. Putting a "hacker" in solitary confinement didn't make any sense when they did it to Kevin Mitnik, and it didn't make any sense with Swartz. It's an abuse of power, the tragedy is it took a suicide for people to notice.
  • Re:His choices... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday June 30, 2014 @08:51AM (#47349705) Journal

    Information doesn't want anything. People want to be free.

    Aaron made a series of bad choices, and we shouldn't be glamorizing them and turning him into a hero.

  • Re:His choices... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by richlv (778496) on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:02AM (#47349823)

    were they all prosecuted by one of the most powerful states in the world for a tiny, tiny crime ?

  • Re:His choices... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:12AM (#47349907) Homepage
    non-profit is nothing but an advertising term anymore.
    If you run a for-profit corporation. Your corporation makes money which it spends to expand and invest and to pay salaries, and you might go home with a million dollar salary.
    If you run a non-profit. Your agency makes money which it spends to expand and invest and to pay salaries, and you might go home with a million dollar salary.

    Which does not mean that JSTOR is bad itself.
  • Re:His choices... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:19AM (#47349985)

    " I'm afraid that that haggling over the charges and the sentence is _normal_ for prosecutors."

    Which is part of the problem. Prosecutors are under a lot of pressure to get a guilty plea, and often resort to intimidation to secure it. Thus the standard deal: Confess and we promise five years, or fight in court and we'll do our best to lock you up for fifty.

  • Re:His choices... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:33AM (#47350055)

    It's not for-profit logic. Copyright exists for a legitimate reason, to provide some incentive for people to create things and to distribute them, both of which have real costs in time and effort. That's why it's been around for centuries. The fact that copyright law has been perversely lengthened to ridiculous extremes is a big problem that must be fixed, but it doesn't negate the value of having copyright for much shorter terms. Works need to expire to the public domain, otherwise the people who rely on copyright don't have the same incentive to make new stuff, and the public doesn't get anything for granting a temporary copyright monopoly in the first place. Creators just sit on old stuff and milk it forever.

    On top of that, JSTOR isn't even a for-profit operation, which means it is a pretty poor example to choose for a principled stand against current copyright law. A principled way to do it would have been to scan in out-of-copyright journals yourself, or maybe ones that would have been out-of-copyright if the terms hadn't been extended ridiculously (e.g., from the 1930s and 1940s), and then put them up on the web for free. Dare the publishers to sue you. It would take a lot of work to set it up. Guess what? It would also cost money. Web space doesn't come for free, especially if high traffic.

    Instead Swartz chose the shortcut of downloading JSTOR's scanned-in archive en masse, despite the fact it violated the license terms for access. JSTOR didn't go all RIAA on him, they just wanted the mass downloads to stop, and MIT was obliged by their license to try to make it stop, efforts that Swartz kept circumventing, culminating in him installing a laptop in a non-public networking closet to do so.

    Good principle, bad implementation. None of which justifies the tragedy of how the prosecution was carried out or the tragedy of him committing suicide, but that doesn't absolve him from his own bad choices.

  • Re:His choices... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:45AM (#47350649)

    It was his own life, and his choice to live or die. Just because his situation sucked doesn't mean the government killed him. I'm not responding to you here, but I am tired of people acting like he was an innocent victim. He made his bed and didn't want to sleep in it. Fine, his choice. That doesn't mean the result was anything but his own decision.

    There are people who've been locked up for decades to crimes they didn't commit who don't commit suicide. There are also many people who did commit crimes who also commit suicide. We don't parade them around as victims.

  • Re:His choices... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:22AM (#47351007) Homepage
    Nothing was done to him that has not been done and worse to people caught with a few joints in their pockets. Almost 1% of americans go to prison, the vast majority for minor non-violent crimes. They are not only threatened with decades in the can, but actually do not have anyone willing to stand behind them and fight it, and did not stand 1/100th the chance that he did.
  • Re:His choices... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:42AM (#47351167)

    So, abolish copyright, and you won't complain when people copy every creative work you've ever made and get money delivering it to other people while you get nothing from it? It must be nice to be independently wealthy.

    I'm for a *short* copyright period. Really short. A decade or so, but it's negotiable. Not zero. A short term of copyright has nothing to do with powerful industries and long-entrenched cartels, it has to do with an individual putting food on the table. I suppose it would be sufficient for a musical performer to perform their work and get compensated for that skill, but it would be nice if a musician could also record their own work and sell copies for a little while, or a programmer (for example) could have the *choice* to either distribute their work freely or have some exclusive rights for a little while, or have the ability to limit the terms under which the code is used (e.g., the GNU GPL *depends* on the existence of copyright [gnu.org]. If copyright didn't exist, none of those terms could be stipulated unless you had a signed contract with every user). Copyright empowers the little guy as much as the big companies, if it is properly constructed.

    In case it's not clear, I don't consider the current laws properly constructed. They're obscenely distorted and weight things far to heavily for the creator rather than the user/public. But I still don't think that justifies abolishing copyright completely. It deserves fixing.

  • Re:His choices... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by butchersong (1222796) on Monday June 30, 2014 @12:14PM (#47351501)
    That is one of the reasons I hate DAs and prosecutors in general. They will pursue charges they know are completely unreasonable compared to the offense for no other reason than scare the hell out of someone making them face their lives being ruined if they attempt to state a case for their innocence in court. They bully people into plea deals every day. This should be illegal. If they are not prosecuting the crime in good faith they have no business representing the publich in such a powerful role.
  • Re:His choices... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Monday June 30, 2014 @12:37PM (#47351713) Homepage

    The feds threat was six months, not 10+ years.

    Bullshit. Threatening "50 years if you make us go to trial, but if you confess we'll recommend six months but the court can still give you 50 years" is still threatening 50 years. The threat of heavy sentences to get people to waive the right to a trail is an egregious violation of due process and the the guarantee against cruel and unusual punishments.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @01:54PM (#47352433)

    A couple of points:

    1. I went through the process of someone to get legal help for a software case issue when a huge corp was going after them. While I love the EFF, they generally take a case when they think a precedent could be set in favor of their (and generally my) agenda. If Microsoft sues you to make an example, and the law seems pretty clear, the EFF won't help you. As for other stepping in to help with legal fees, based on past articles (haven't seen the doc) apparently part of the issue he was having was he was under gag orders severe enough preventing him from even asking friends for help. Think about that for a moment.

    2. People with clinical depression generally can't ask for help for three general reasons:

    (A) Their mindset: I kind of hate this term, but it's a case where normal people have to "check their priveledge" because while what you are saying makes perfect sense if you have a non-depressed mindset. They can be the smartest person you have ever met, but when suffering from depression, how you are feeling is normal to you, a direct result of how you are seeing the world. That you could feel better than you are, even while circumstances or situations are the same, isn't something that makes sense. eg, imagine you are terminally ill with cancer, no prognosis beyond a few months of excruciating pain laying in a bed, so you decide to end it on your terms. It makes perfect and absolute sense to you as the only reasonable option, and to many outsiders. They stop deriving enjoyment from everything: food, music, people, work -- everything.

    (B) Lack of energy: Things seem pointless, and the amount of energy to muster basic things seems beyond them, from showering to brushiing their teeth to making a call about how bad things are.

    (C) Stigma: This has been slowly changing, but unless you are around people in psych programs every day, the stigma is still there and it is very, very real. Even if the social stigma wasn't, the personal one still is, as no one likes to think there is something wrong with their brain, let alone likes telling people about it.

    Also, the hell with beta. I'm going to miss this site.

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