The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
In Ancient Athens, the Athenian codes of law were inscribed on wooden blocks placed in public spaces. The reason for this was the Greek belief that each of its citizens, regardless of wealth, should have access to the law. Over 2,000 years later, in a country known as the “land of the free”, you might be forgiven for thinking that free public access to the law and to education is upheld as a basic human right.
The reality is what Aaron Swartz called “private theft of public culture”, whereby multi-million dollar publishing corporations and governmental bodies are restricting public access to knowledge. Unless, that is, you can pay for the privilege. To protest for change may seem the obvious solution, yet in doing so Aaron was not met with understanding, but with the threat of 35 years in a federal prison, the cost of a one million dollar fine and eventually, that of his life.
This documentary follows the life of Aaron Swartz, internet genius and democracy activist. The narration is provided by Aaron’s various friends, family members and colleagues, accompanied by an array of home videos and interviews Aaron gave during his lifetime. The picture they paint is not what you might expect from the typical tech-geek, rags-to-riches story; this is not the story of Steve Jobs. Having committed suicide at the age of 26, the story of Aaron Swartz is a sharp awakening to the reality of US governmental denial of public access to the truth. The two questions raised by this documentary are clear: was Aaron’s death a suicide or was it murder? And is bringing public access to the public domain a crime or a moral imperative? You would do extremely well not to be convinced by the arguments this film puts forward so powerfully.
For every curious mind who has ever been denied online access to a book, document or journal, and for every student who has ever searched for an article on Jstor only to find they needed to pay to read it, this film is more than a must-see. It is a moral, social and political obligation, a call for change, a life not wasted.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is released nationwide on 25th August 2014.
Watch the trailer for The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz here: