James Grimmelmann on Aaron Swartz

James Grimmelmann

January 29, 2013 · 4 comments

New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann eulogizes Aaron Swartz, the open information and internet activist who recently committed suicide in the face of a computer trespass prosecution.

Grimmelmann describes Swartz’s journey from “wunderkind prodigy who came out of nowhere when he was 14” to “classic activist-organizer,” paying special attention to the ideas that motivated his work. According to Grimmelmann, Swartz was primarily interested in power being held by the wrong people and how to overcome it through community organizing. Swartz was dedicated to his personal theory of change and believed that people who know how to use computers have a duty to undermine the closed-access system from within.

It was this ardent belief that led Swartz to surreptitiously download academic articles from JSTOR. Grimmelmann closely analyzes the case, providing a balanced view of both the prosecution’s and Swartz’s view of the issue. Grimmelmann additionally suggests possible policy reforms brought to light by Schwartz’s case.



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  • Two_pants69

    I think he is actually from New York Law School, not NYU–NYLS often gets mixed up with NYU, similar to what happens with Georgetown and George Washington in DC.

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    Yes. NYLS.

  • http://jerrybrito.com Jerry Brito

    Yes, I knew that! Thanks for pointing it out! It’s fixed.

  • jem jem

    Those who may be in a position to help someone else who may be in potential or imminent danger should pay special attention after JG says (roughly) that ‘we are not that good at supporting them and getting them through the dark times’ and is then asked by the host¬† “How can we get better” at around 46:00