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The Internet's Own Boy 194

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

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @08:26AM (#47349149)

    He made bad choices, and then reacted extremely badly to the rather predictable consequences. I'm not sure he's much of a poster boy for anything much. It's sad, but I'm not sure what exactly we're supposed to be celebrating here.

  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @08:31AM (#47349173)

    The thing that always bothered me about Swartz is why didn't rich benefactors in the tech industry help him not only with his legal issues, but also with his known issues with clinical depression. A strong, vigorous defense team provided by the EFF and getting Swartz psychiatric help could have saved his life.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @08:38AM (#47349213)
    A man must be strong enough to handle his own clinical issues. If not, erased from the gene pool -- no matter what his IQ is.
  • Re:His choices... (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:07AM (#47349873)

    Don't be obtuse. He killed himself because the "justice" system has become so aggressive, predatory and vindictive that it makes logical sense to do so. Its goal isn't even slightly about justice. It exists to perpetuate the establishment, and fuck anyone who dares challenge it in the pursuit of progress for public liberty and enrichment of knowledge.

    I could elaborate for paragraphs on end why this shouldn't have even been a blip on the DOJ's radar, but the documentary does an excellent job of that. You should watch it.

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

    by butalearner ( 1235200 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:37AM (#47350095)

    Activism, or hacktivism, is one thing. Breaking critical research tools for millions of customers worldwide is abuse, and clearly criminal in several ways. I'm afraid that Aaron earned prosecution. The extent of the prosecution seems severe, but as best I can tell, the prosecutors were quite willing to "deal" for a a very low sentence, as long as the deal included a felony conviction. I'm afraid that that haggling over the charges and the sentence is _normal_ for prosecutors.

    One thing I learned from Wikipedia that I hadn't heard anywhere else is that, a few years earlier, Swartz first downloaded the Library of Congress's "complete bibliographic data set" (whatever that is), then a bit later downloaded millions of public domain court documents from a paywalled system called PACER. The Library of Congress normally charged fees to access the former, and the latter charged users 8 cents per page back then (now it is 10 cents per page up to $3 per document). Despite gaining the attention of the FBI, he didn't get so much as a slap on the wrist for either one.

    So we have a couple aspects potentially contributing to what happened. First, Swartz probably felt reassured by his past experiences that, even if caught, he wouldn't get in trouble. Second, he didn't make any friends in the government by pulling his first two stunts, so when federal prosecutors realized they could get him, they went overboard. This is just conjecture, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true.

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

    by kevmeister ( 979231 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @12:20PM (#47351003) Homepage

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

    While the famous quote is personifying information by implying will, I believe that the statement is effectively true. Nature has no free will, so it is not really true that "Something there is does not like a wall ", but entropy clearly demands that they fall and it looks to me like entropy wants information to be free, as well. It takes a great deal of effort to keep information captive, but almost no effort to release it.

    People, on the other hand, purportedly want to be free. It takes serious effort to remain free. And, looking at support by the general public for "Big Brother" government (as long as it keeps us safe), it is not clear that most people even want to be free. :Or, perhaps they (or I) fail to understand what freedom really is.

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

    by spitzak ( 4019 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @03:03PM (#47352557) Homepage

    The meme "information wants to be free" is supposed to be read like "water wants to flow downhill". That statement does not mean water has a mind and actively thinks about flowing downhill. It also does not mean dams to stop the downhill movement are immoral or wrong. What it is saying is "a dam is expensive and will not magically appear without active input by a concerned party".

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