Hundreds honor information activist Swartz in NYC

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm •  Published: January 19, 2013
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But his family, admirers and some legal experts blasted the case as overreaching that drove Swartz to his death. His father, Robert Swartz, has said his son "was killed by the government."

The digital archive that holds the articles, JSTOR, has said it regretted being drawn into the criminal case and didn't pursue any claims against Swartz after he returned the data in 2011. Days before his death, the nonprofit JSTOR announced that it planned to make more than 4.5 million articles available for free.

Swartz had pleaded not guilty to some 13 felony charges. They carried the potential for decades in prison and enormous fines, though prosecutors have said they never intended to seek the maximum penalties.

A shaken Ortiz said this week she was "terribly upset about what happened," appearing near tears at one point as she spoke about the case. But she said her office handled it fairly and appropriately.

Swartz was a young teenager when he helped create RSS, technology for gathering updates from blogs, news sites and elsewhere on the Web. He later co-founded the social news site Reddit and Demand Progress, a group that campaigns against online censorship.

"He was trying to hack the whole world, in the best way." Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal told memorial attendees at the Great Hall at Cooper Union.

Roy Singham, founder of the software company Thoughtworks, said Swartz "deeply wanted to protect humanity's intellectual treasures" and keep them part of the public domain, and to ensure that technology was a tool for promoting democracy, rather than for amassing profit and power.

Glenn Otis Brown, director of business development at Twitter, remembered the precocious 15 or 16-year-old he met while working as the executive director of Creative Commons, which provides a way for people to license their code or online work for public use.

Swartz's role there was to translate legal software-licensing agreements into computer-readable code — a job he peppered with humor, such as reframing the complex legal concepts as haikus. For example, "Public domain: Do what you feel like / Since the work is abandoned / the law doesn't care," or "If you touch this file / my lawyers will come kill you / so kindly refrain."

Brown recalled a blog post Swartz once wrote about spending 30 days offline: "I felt like I was in control of my life, instead of the other way around."

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Follow Jennifer Peltz at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz

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