Online activist Aaron Swartz dies in New York

From The Tech (MIT):

Internet activist Aaron H. Swartz died by suicide in his Brooklyn apartment on Friday, Jan. 11, according to his uncle, Michael Wolf, in a comment to The Tech. Swartz was 26.

“The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true,” confirmed Swartz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of Kecker and Van Nest, in an email to The Tech early Saturday morning.

Swartz was indicted in July 2011 by a federal grand jury for allegedly downloading millions of documents from JSTOR through the MIT network — using a laptop hidden in a basement network closet in MIT’s Building 16 — with the intent to distribute them. (Both JSTOR and MIT had decided to drop the charges, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office decided to pursue the case.)


Both JSTOR and MIT have released statements in response to Swartz’ death.

“This is one case that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset,” wrote JSTOR on Saturday in a statement released online. The digital library repository reiterated its message that Swartz had settled any civil claims JSTOR might have had against him in 2011, when he returned all data in his possession. In an earlier July 2011 statement, JSTOR wrote, “Once this was achieved, we had no interest in this becoming an ongoing legal matter.”

MIT followed on Sunday with an email from President L. Rafael Reif reaching out to the MIT community.

“Although Aaron had no formal affiliation with MIT, I am writing to you now because he was beloved by many members of our community,” wrote Reif, “and because MIT played a role in the legal struggles that began for him in 2011.”

See also: Aaron Swartz's FOIA requests shed light on his struggle and the full court file here.