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Hacker Hymn [Jasmina Tesanovic]

Recently I saw a movie on the life and death of Aaron Swartz, who is nowadays often called a martyr for the freedom of the Internet.

People, nations and governments like martyrs. They love them, they need them. Martyrs are part of our bipolar, black and white society constructed from good and bad guys, who always do good and bad deeds. Martyrs are those who have escaped our human condition, of being judged by people as people. Martyrs are beyond judgement, they become the scapegoats for our biggest failures, for the banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt phrased it.

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Noah Swartz reads Aaron Swartz's afterword to Homeland

Before he died, Aaron Swartz wrote a tremendous afterword for my novel Homeland -- Aaron also really helped with the core plot, devising an ingenious system for helping independent candidates get the vote out that he went on to work on. When I commissioned the indie audiobook of Homeland (now available in the Humble Ebook Bundle, I knew I wanted to have Aaron's brother, Noah, read Aaron's afterword, and Noah was kind enough to do so, going into a studio in Seattle to record a tremendous reading.

Here is Noah's reading (MP3), released as a CC0 file that you can share without any restrictions. I hope you'll give it a listen.

And a reminder that the complete Humble Ebook Bundle lineup is now available, including work from John Scalzi, Mercedes Lackey, and Ryan North, as well as the core bundle, which features Wil Wheaton, Holly Black, Steven Gould, and Scott Westerfeld!

Global Game Jam asks developers to use the public domain, in Aaron Swartz's honor

Susan writes, "Over 22K game developers from all over the world (72 countries) came together this past weekend (January 24-26) at the annual Global Game Jam (GGJ). This year's event was record breaking, having churned out over 4K games with the theme 'We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.' The yearly event focusing on collaboration, experimentation and innovation in games challenges developers of all skill levels. The jam is about creating community as well as creating games, all jams are physical jams where you have a chance to grow your skills and your network. Add to that the event prides itself on being hardware and software agnostic -- open to digital and analog games that are open source adhering to a Creative Common's license.

"As if making a game from start to finish with your new found friends at one of the 400+ local jams isn't hard enough, the GGJ offers diversifiers help challenge developers just a bit more. This year GGJ decided to honor the memory of the late Aaron Swartz by creating a diversifier that asks the developer of the game to only use materials found in the public domain. The Global Game Jam is a volunteer based 501c3 looking to share the universal language of games around the world while generating a buzz of creativity for everyone to feed from."

Global Game Jam (Thanks, Susan!)

Tim Wu on the Aaron Swartz documentary

In the New Yorker, Tim Wu reviews The Internet's Own Boy, a documentary about the life and death of Aaron Swartz. Wu, the scholar and lawyer who coined the term "Net Neutrality," does a good job of framing Aaron's life in the context of his activism. The film has just premiered to good reviews at Sundance.

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Aaron Swartz's family talk with documentarian Brian Knappenberger about "The Internet's Own Boy" on Democracy Now

The Internet's Own Boy is a documentary about the life and death of Aaron Swartz, and it just premiered at Sundance. Director Brian Knappenberger sat down with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, as well as Aaron's father Robert and his brother Noah for a wide-ranging interview on Aaron and his work.

The Internet’s Own Boy: Film on Aaron Swartz Captures Late Activist’s Struggle for Online Freedom (Thanks, Noah!)

Remembering Aaron Swartz

It's been a year since Aaron Swartz killed himself. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Parker Higgins has posted a memorial to him that I found quite moving. I miss Aaron a lot.

I've been feeling pretty hopeless about the future lately, and I think a lot of it has been driven by the impending anniversary of Aaron's death. The last couple years were hard ones.

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Coalition to fight mass Internet surveillance declares global day of action, Feb 11


A broad coalition of organizations -- including Boing Boing -- have joined forces to declare February 11 a day of action in memory of Aaron Swartz and against NSA Internet spying and mass surveillance. Just as we did with the SOPA fight, we're asking people who care about this to make their own personal expressions of resistance, and take the case for caring about this and fighting back to the people closest to them. Each of us knows the arguments that will convince our friends and loved ones.

The Day We Fight Back sets out a number of ways you can participate, small and large. This is a fight we can win.

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Aaron Swartz's father, Bob Swartz, discusses his son's death

It's been nearly a year since my friend Aaron Swartz killed himself, and it's a year his friends and family have passed by trying to make sense of his death and trying to decide what to do about his legacy. His father, Bob, and I have spoken several times since then, and I've often returned to his insights when I've thought about Aaron.

Bob has done a long interview with Boston Magazine about Aaron and the aftermath of his death. He's especially damning of MIT's role in Aaron's death, and in the inadequacy of MIT's internal investigation following it.

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Walk across New Hampshire with Larry Lessig and friends to reform campaign finance and fight corruption

Larry Lessig and friends are walking the length of New Hampshire for #NHRebellion, to reform campaign finance and try to end corruption in American politics (see Larry's excellent TED Talk about this, above). The two-week walk starts on January 11, the anniversary of Aaron Swartz's death. You can walk with Larry and the rest of the NHRebellion, or you can sponsor them (or both!).

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Aaron Swartz celebration/hackathon kickoff, Nov 8


Lisa Rein writes, "Noisebridge and the Internet Archive are hosting a big event on Nov 8 (1830h-2100h) to celebrate Aaron Swartz’s life and accomplishments, and kick off an international series of hackathons that will be taking place all over the world in his honor, during what would have been his 27th birthday weekend, November 8-10, 2013. (Confirmed locations include, Amsterdam, Bangalore, Berlin, Boston, Brisbane, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Houston, Kathmandu, Magdeburg, New York, Santiago, Chile, Seattle and San Francisco.)"

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Aaron Swartz hackathon


Noah Swartz writes, "In January, after nearly two years of government prosecution and harassment, my brother Aaron Swartz died. Aaron was eclectic and prolific in his activism. In the wake of recent events, we especially feel the loss of his unique brand of activism. It is not just that we now have one less voice in the chorus, or even that we lost such a unique voice. We've lost a tireless activist, and a central motivator, someone who could make us seriously question the morality of our actions and show us how to do better. I want to host events around the world to bring together those of us who are fighting to change things, and perhaps to ignite others with a spark from Aaron's flame. Let's spend a weekend together to be, as Aaron would say, part of Team Impact."

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First 100 pages of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files


After a long wrangle, and no thanks to MIT, the Secret Service has begun to honor the court order that requires it to release Aaron Swartz's files. The first 100 pages -- albeit heavily redacted -- were just released. Kevin Poulsen, the Wired reporter who filed the Freedom of Information Act request that liberated the files, has posted some preliminary analysis of them. The Feds were particularly interested in the "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto," a document Aaron helped to write in 2008. The manifesto -- and subsequent statements by Aaron -- make the case that access to scientific and scholarly knowledge is a human right. The full Aaron Swartz files run 14,500 pages, according to the Secret Service's own estimate.

I was interested to note that much of the analysis of Swartz's materials was undertaken by SAIC, the mystery-shrouded, massive private military/government contractor that is often described as the largest privately held company in the world.

Update: Jake Appelbaum corrects me: "I've been reading what is released of one of the files for Aaron. I think that SAIC in these documents means 'Special Agent In Charge' and isn't actually the motherfuckers at SAIC. Reading this report makes my fucking blood boil, (b)(6), (b)(7)(c)"

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Petition to Congress: don't put people in jail for violating terms of service!

A large group of "security researchers, academics, and lawyers" have signed onto a letter to Congress demanding that lawmakers enact "Aaron's Law," which would reform the antiquated and terrible Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which US prosecutors claim makes violating online terms of service into a felony punishable by imprisonment. This is the law that was used to persecute Aaron Swartz, who was accused of violating terms of service by automatically downloading academic articles, rather than accessing them one at a time. The federal prosecutor threatened Aaron with 35 years in prison.

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Prosecutor Stephen Heymann told MIT that Aaron Swartz was like a rapist who blames his victim


Stephen Heymann is the assistant US attorney who made it his mission to see Aaron Swartz sent to prison for violating terms of service by downloading scientific papers with an automatic script, rather than individually, by hand. Heymann spent a lot of time working with MIT on this -- Aaron used MIT's network to allegedly violate the terms of service -- and in his efforts to get MIT to stay involved in the face of public criticism for their cooperation, he compared Aaron to a rapist who blames his victim. Aaron's lawyers have asked the DoJ to investigate Heymann for breaches of professional standards.

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UPDATED: EFF: MIT was not "neutral" on Aaron Swartz; actively assisted in his prosecution


The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Legal Director Cindy Cohn writes in detail about the MIT report on its involvement in Aaron Swartz's prosecution. She criticizes MIT's claim to neutrality in the matter, showing the way that the university went to great, voluntary lengths to help the government prosecute Aaron, and eventually siding with the government in motions to keep the evidence that it turned over to the prosecutor admissable. Cohn shows that MIT's likeliest motivation for this was saving face. Ultimately, Cohn says, "MIT's actions in helping the government prosecute Aaron are shameful, and betray the institution’s commitment to technologists."

Update: Cohn wrote in to add, "The prosecution turned on whether Aaron's access to JSTOR via the MIT network was 'unauthorized' and MIT had tremendous power over which way that decision went in the case. The report acknowledges this but simply repeats MIT's assertion that it didn't actually realize it without criticism or noting how unreasonable (or not believable) this assertion is. The CFAA isn't unknown or unknowable and the folks handling this are in the General Counsel's office. 'Unauthorized access' is the statutory language. And of course MIT's belief that Aaron's access might be unauthorized (as in violation of MIT's policies or maybe JSTOR's) is why they called the police and why he was arrested at their instigation. The idea that after they called the cops they didn't understand what law might have been broken or why their network openness and policies mattered to that determination, such that they never even volunteered the information or asked the prosecution for its theory or more importantly gave information about this to the defense, just isn't believable."

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