1. Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? —— Henry David Thoreau
2. He certainly was a prodigy, although he never kind of thought of himself like that. —— Lawrence Lessig, Director, Edmond J. Sandra Center for Ethics at Harvard University; Founder, Creative Commons
3. He was totally unexcited about starting businesses and making money. —— Peter Eckersley, Technology projects director at EFF; Former roommate of Aaron Swartz
4. Governments have insatiable desire to control.
5. Growing up, you know, I slowly had this process of realizing that all the things around me, that people had told me were just the natural way things were, the way things always would be. They weren’t natural at all, there were things that could be changed, and there were things that more importantly were wrong and should change. And once I realized that, there was really kind of no going back. —— Aaron Swartz, 2010
6. He knew what he wanted, and he always wanted to do it. He always accomplished what he wanted. His curiosity was endless. —— Aaron’s mother, Susan Swartz
7. He started programming from a really young age. I remember the first program that that I wrote with him was in Basic and it was a Star Wars trivia game... The problem that I kept having with him is that there was nothing that I wanted done. And to him, there was always something to do, always something that programming could solve. The way Aaron always saw it, is that programming is magic. You can accomplish these things that normal humans can’t. He made this website called The Info, where people could just fill in the information. 「I'm sure someone out there knows everything about gold, gold leafing. Why don’t they write about that on this website? Andother people can come at a later point and read that information, and edit the information if they thought it was bad.」Not too dissimilar from Wikipedia, right? And this was before Wikipedia begun. And this is developed by a 12-year-old in his room, by himself, running on this tiny server, using ancient technology. —— Aaron’s brother, Ben Swartz
8. I first met him on IRC, or Internet Relay Chat. He didn’t just write code, he also got people excited about solving problems he got. He was a connector. The free culture movement, he had a lot of this energy. I think Aaron was trying to make the world work. He was trying to fix it. —— Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of The World Wide Web
9. He had a very strong personality, that definitely ruffled feathers at times. It wasn’t necessarily the case that he was always comfortable in the world and the world wasn’t always comfortable with him. —— Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy - McGill University
10. I was very frustrated with school, I thought the teachers didn’t know what they were talking about. They were domineering and controlling, the homework was kind of a sham and it was all j ust like all about a way to pen students all together and force them to do busy work. And, you know, I started reading books about the history of education and how this educational system was developed. Then, you know, alternatives to it and ways that people could actually learn things as opposed to just regurgitating facts that teachers told them. And that kind of led me down this path of questioning things, once I questioned the school I was in, I questioned the society that built the school, I questioned the businesses that the schools were training people for, I questioned the government that set up this whole structure. —— Aaron Swartz, From an interview for SpunOut.ie - 2010
11. Copyright has always been something kind of a burden on the publishing industry and on readers. But it wasn’t an excessive burden, it was a reasonable institution to have in place, to make sure people got paid. What Aaron’s generation experienced was the collision between this antique copyright system and this amazing new thing we were trying to build, the Internet and the Web. These things collided, and what we got was chaos. —— Peter Eckersley, Technology projects director at EFF; Former roommate of Aaron Swartz
12. So the simple idea of Creative Commons is to give people, creators, a simple way to mark their creativity with the freedoms they intended to carry. So if copyright is all about “All rights reserved”, then this is a kind of a “Some rights reserved” model. I want a simple way to say to you: here is what you can do with my work, even if there are other things which you need to get my permission before you could do. And Aaron’s role was the computer part. Like how do you architect the licenses so they’ll be simple and understandable and expressed in a way so that machines can process it. ——Lawrence Lessig, Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University; Founder, Creative Commons
13. When you come to our website here, and you go to “Choose license”, you get to this list of options, it explains what it means, and you’ve three simple questions:Do you want to require attribution? Do you want to allow commercial uses of your work? Do you want to allow modifications of your work? ——Aaron Swartz, Creative Commons launch - 2012
14. I think deeply about things, and want others to do likewise. I work for ideas and learn from people. I don’t like excluding people. I’m perfectionist, but I won’t let that get in the way of publication. Except for education and entertainment, I’m not going to waste my time on things that won’t have an impact. I try to be friends with everyone, but I hate it when you don’t take me seriously. I don’t hold grudges (it’s not productive) but I learn from my experience. I want to make the world a better place. —— Aaron Swartz
15. I like living in apartments so I’m not going to spend a lot of money on a new place to live, I’m not gonna but a mansion. And I like wearing jeans and a T-shirt, so I’m not going to spend any more money on clothes. So it’s really no big deal. —— Aaron Swartz
16. In the old system of broadcasting, you’re fundamentally limited by the amount of space in the airwaves. You can only send out ten channels over the airwaves, television or even with cable, you had 500 channels. On the Internet, everybody can have a channel. Everyone can get a blog, or a MySpace page. Everyone has a way of expressing themselves. What you see now is not a question of who gets access to the airwaves, it’s a question of who gets control over the ways you find people. You know, you start seeing power centralizing in sites like Google, they are sort of gate-keepers that tell you where on the Internet you want to go, the people who provide you your sources of news and information. So it’s not only certain people have a license to speak, now everyone has a license to speak. It’s a question of who gets heard. —— Aaron Swartz
17. Swartz was inspired by one of the visionaries he had met as a child. The man who had invented the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. In the 1990s, Berners-Lee was arguably sitting on one of the most lucrative inventions of the 20th century. But instead of profiting from the invention of the World Wide Web, he gave it away for free. It is the only reason the World Wide Web exists today.
18. Aaron is certainly deeply influenced by Tim. Tim is certainly a very prominent early Internet genius who doesn’t in any sense cash out. He’s not at all interested in how he’s going to figure out how to make a billion dollars. —— Lawrence Lessig
19. People were saying, “Ah, there’s money to be made there”, so there would have been lots of little webs. And one little web, all sorts of webs doesn’t work, because you can’t follow links from one to the other. You had to have the critical masses, the thing was the entire planet, so it’s not going to work unless the whole planet can get on board. ——Tim Berners-Lee
20. I feel very strongly that it’s not enough to just live in the world as it is, it’s just kind of take what you’re given, and you know follow the things that adults told you to do, and that your parents told you to do, and that the society tells you to do. I think you should always be questioning. I think this very scientific attitude, that everything you’ve learned is just provisional, you know, it’s always open to recantation or refutation or questioning, and I think the same applies to society. Once I realized that there were real serious problems, fundamental problems that I could do something to address, I didn’t see a way to forget that, I didn’t see a way not to. —— Aaron Swartz
21. Swartz threw his energy into a string of new projects involving access to public information. Including an accountability website called Wacthdog.net and a project called The Open Library.
22. So the Open Library Project is website you can visit at openlibrary.org and the idea is to be a huge wiki, an editable website with one page per book. So for every book ever published, we want to have a web page about it that combines all the information from publishers, from booksellers, from libraries, from readers onto one site. An then gives you links where you can buy it, you can borrow it, or you can browse it. I love libraries, I’m the kind of person who goes to a new city and immediately seeks out the library. That’s the dream of Open Library, is building this website where both you can leap from book to book, from person to author, from subject to idea. Go through this vast tree of knowledge that’s been embedded and lost in big physical libraries, that’s hard to find, that’s not very well accessible online. It’s really important because books are our cultural legacy. Books are the place people go to write things down, and to have all that swallowed up by one corporation is kind of scary. ——Aaron Swartz
23. How can you bring public access to the public domain? It may sound obvious that you’d have public access to the public domain, but in fact it’s not true. So the public domain should be free to all, but it’s often locked up. There’s often guard cages. It’s like having a national park but with a moat around it, and gun turrets pointed out, in case somebody may want to actually come and enjoy the public domain. One of the things Aaron was particularly interested in was bringing public access to the public domain. This is one of the things that got him into so much trouble.—— Brewster Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive
24. I had been trying to get access to federal court records in the United States. What I discovered was a puzzling system, call PACER, which stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. I started Googling, and that’s when I ran across Carl Malamud.—— Stephen Shultze, Former fellow, Berkman Center for Internet in Society at Harvard
25. Access to legal materials in the U.S. is a $10 billion per year business. PACER is just this incredible abomination of government services. It’s 10 cents a page, it’s this most brain dead code you’ve ever seen. You can’t search it, you can’t bookmark anything. You’ve got to have a credit card. And these are public records. U.S. district courts are very important, it’s where a lot of our seminal litigation starts, civil rights cases, patent cases, all sorts of stuff. Journalists, students, citizens and lawyers all need access to PACER and it fights them every step of the way. People without means can’t see the law as readily as people that have that gold American Express card. It’s a poll tax on access to justice. ——Carl Malamud, Founder of Public.Resource.Org
26. You know the law is the operating system of our democracy, and you have to pay to see it?You know, that’s not much of a democracy. —— Tim O’Reilly, Founder, O’Reilly Media Inc.
Aaron is dead.
Wanderers in this crazy world,
we have lost a mentor, a wise elder.
Hackers for right, we are one down,
we have lost one of our own.
Nurturers, carers, listeners, feeders, parents all, we have lost a child.
Let us all weep.
—— Sir Tim Berners-Lee, January 11, 2013