While I agree Mr Swartz’s suicide was tragic, I cannot agree with the idea that “corporations” own everything, that copyright is horrible, and all information should be free.
It overlooks the exceptionally important reality that private property rights are a cornerstone of freedom, and the primary enabler of individual wealth creation.
All of those millions of “papers” Mr Swartz decided should be free were the property of individual people, scientists, or groups of scientists, or their employers, or whoever the creator sold or rented their copyright to, not some anonymous big bad corporation.
Recall Mr Swartz had all these ideas at the same moment many decided that musicians, film companies, photographers, and newspapers shouldn’t monitize their product. That creators should starve and simply give away all their work to others.
Based on the history of socialism, it’s one of the worst ideas in the history of mankind. Mr Swartz ignored the rights of hundreds of thousands if not millions of creators because he alone decided their work wasn’t theirs and they should never again be able to be paid for that work.
How did he do that? He installed a PC in a data closet somewhere on the university campus while it downloaded 4.8 million copyrighted documents. He wore a disguise. He physically broke into the data closet. He crashed several servers and got MIT (and all of their students and researchers) kicked off of JSTOR for several days. While the material was “free” to MIT students, MIT, and every other university customer paid for that access.
He wasn’t idealistic, he was self absorbed and believed existing law and property rights didn’t apply to him.
The FBI threw the book at him because content owners of all stripes were up in arms at the time because their previously valuable property was suddenly near worthless due to rampant theft by people like Mr Swartz, and Swartz was a publicity seeking prominent activist trying earnestly to undermine copyright laws.
His death saddened me, however I completely disagree with what he stood for.