This isn’t the essay I originally set out to write. That essay is sitting open next to this one, unfinished. But in being unable to finish that piece, I was inspired to write this one.
In January 2013, web developer and activist Aaron Swartz hanged himself in his New York apartment. At the time, Swartz was facing serious jail time for using a guest account on MIT servers to download millions of academic papers from the online journal repository JSTOR. Swartz, who was also integral in the development of RSS web feed format and the news aggregation site Reddit, sought to make publically available the academic content that JSTOR held behind its subscription paywalls.