Remembering Aaron Swartz

Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig and Aaron Swartz
Lawrence Lessig and Aaron Swartz (2002) / Rich Gibson / CC BY

Friends and Commoners,

It is with incredible sadness that I write to tell you that yesterday, Aaron Swartz took his life. Aaron was one of the early architects of Creative Commons. As a teenager, he helped design the code layer to our licenses, and helped build the movement that has carried us so far. Before Creative Commons, he had coauthored RSS. After Creative Commons, he co-founded Reddit, liberated tons of government data, helped build a free public library at, and has done incredibly important work to reform and make good our political system. (, his most recent org, was instrumental in blocking the SOPA/PIPA legislation one year ago.)

More than all that, Aaron was a dear friend to all of us, and an inspiration to me and many of you. Our prayers are with his parents and those who knew his love. But everything we build will forever know the product of his genius.

55 thoughts on “Remembering Aaron Swartz”

  1. My heart goes out to you, his friends, and to his family. What a great loss for everyone.

    PS: What a wonderful picture.

  2. what an inspiration you are. we will have to build on what you have hoped for. thank you and rest in peace.

  3. I am extremely shocked and angry with what I understand was institutional murder. He is a martyr of the cause.

    To whom it may concern:

    I wonder how you will live your irrelevant lives knowing that your stupid actions induced an extraordinary, brilliant and ETHICAL human being like Aaron H. Swartz to commit suicide. Whatever the mental condition he had was only a vulnerability to toxic creatures and institutions like you.

    Marilia Coutinho, Ph.D.

  4. I wanna say thank you Aaron for the idea that you have spread in the world! Those idea will live forever

  5. Let’s analyze from a cause and effect view.
    Aaron Swartz did not die because of his choice. He was forced to commit suicide because of the over ambitious prosecutor Carmen Ortiz who lacked common sense and was seeking to punish him for a crime that he did not commit. Not only that, Carmen was seeking to confine this talent for fifty years who value the power of time most. A kid who has been active since 14. A kid who left Stanford to utilize his time better.
    Certain facts are undisputed:
    1) Carmen is not and can never become intellectually capable of what Aaron was at the time of his birth.
    2) Carmen has not contributed even a fraction of what Aaron has contributed to this society’s betterment.
    3) Aaron did not commit a crime that resulted in any victims.
    4) MIT does not own the contents of JSTOR (in most cases).
    5) JSTOR does not own the journals (in most cases).
    6) Even if Aaron did something wrong, it was only “monetary” in nature which has a very subjective value depending on the person valuing it.
    7) Aaron committed suicide because of the thirteen charges he was facing.
    8) If four years in Stanford, where Carmen would dream to be, was a waste of time for him, how could Aaron live fifty years in prison?
    9) Carmen’s action and MIT’s disgusting approach in handling this matter resulted in Aaron’s death.
    10) Above all, Aaron was not a threat to life or liberty of anyone, then where did Carmen get the remarkable common sense of confining this talent?
    Applying the law of the land, if you murder someone, you will be facing death penalty. If you negligently murder someone, you will be facing negligent homicide or wrongful death. This case warrants a charge against Carmen for Negligent Homicide and Wrongful Death.
    Carmen is responsible for snatching away this talent from world who had the potential to invent things that the world would have benefited from. Carmen is guilty for denying an opportunity for the mankind to utilize his talent.
    Using her common sense, at the most, she could have fined this man one million dollar or triple the amount for the damages. Oh wait…who was the victim?

  6. The way he took his life shows that he has not done any thing wrong in his life!
    Nothing wrong… What he did was only to help others, it is not for him or for making money or to profit from it…..It is so sad, very much unfortunate and unbelievable particularly in these days. How he did that… beating his head on the wall!! I can not.. .. . …

  7. Thank you Lawrence for you support of Aaron. I have been researching Aaron’s work for most of the day today and am absolutely mindblown by the depth and breadth of his intellect and heart.

  8. “I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” -Banksy

  9. Dear Prof. Lessig,

    I want to suggest creating a petition for a Department of Peace in honor of the
    memory of Aaron Swarz as well as for the children of Sandy Hook..

    Both Aaron and these children have given our country a greater need to institute
    such a cabinet level Department of Peace (which already exists in New Mexico
    on a state lelvel).

    I think that Aaron would be proud to have such a Department as a memorial.

    I mourn for his loss, though I did not know of him until I heard the “Democracy Now”
    radio program. My heart grieves at such brilliance lost.

    Sincerely, Carole Ashley

  10. My sincerest condolences to those who lost Aaron Swartz….

    I thought the US of A and MIT is a place where freedom of public information is the norm…a right….

    Am I so wrong….so is Aaron… who fights for it and ended in tragedy…..

    The laws of the US is also to my surprise, not as just and works for the privileged who can afford to pay for “PUBLIC” info…worse still the claws of US law enforcement agencies used the laws that is supposed to protect the freedom of its citizens, to push Aaron to a hopeless dead corner and destroyed him…what a shame…

    I thought the place I live in is not as free…now I have second thoughts…

    I hope a genius like Aaron will rise someday in the place where I live so that we can benefit from his work and his aspirations…we don’t have genius like Aaron among us, to guide our young people in ideas and aspirations…USA don’t know how to treasure a gem that will do great good to his country…USA treasure only dirty and mindless attorneys who cannot distinguish the good, the bad, and the ugly…

    Everybody will miss a stupid (for his belief that the USA is a free society), yet so lovely and sweet genius….

    The old Eastern saying goes…” We bid you goodbye..Aaron Swarz…we cannot deter you from going away….because Heaven has a better job waiting for you in a distant place….”

  11. Life is not measured in how long you lived on this planet but in how much you’ve contributed to the well-being of another person, a community or the world at large. So young, immensely creative and so way ahead of his times with backpack full of ideas, now gone forever.

  12. My heart goes out to Aaron Swartz’s family, partner and friends. And my heart goes out to each of us who have lost such a talented advocate, web developer and amazing person.

    I have posted a couple posting on my blog about Aaron Swartz.

    What a tragic situation and tragic loss.

  13. Rest in Awesome Aaron… rest in awesome. I will always remember how you lived.. you lived to create a more beautiful world, and that is how we all must live. It is a responsibility I intend to take seriously.. and do.

  14. “Many men have been capable of doing a wise thing, more a cunning thing, but very few a generous thing.” Alexander Pope. Aaron Swarz’s crime was his generosity of spirit towards us – whom he felt still deserved the freedoms of which the men of cunning will always seek to deprive us. Our best tribute to Aaron would be to finish what he started by keeping his generous spirit alive.

  15. I don’t know why would such a creative person commit suicide! What would bring happiness to human beings? Success? Money? Love? Big questions!

    Rest in Peace Aaron!

  16. Cuánto siento la pérdida de Aaron! Mi más sinceras condolencias a su familia. Gracias Aaron por todo lo que has hecho.Algunas personas no podrán dormir en paz nunca más….sus conciencias, si la tienen no los dejará. Amigo, ya nos encontraremos.Descansa…

  17. Aaron, gracias por todo lo que nos has dejado. Gracias por tu humildad, mentalidad y por tu “sabiduría compartida”… como acabo de leer… se nos ha ido un genio, yo pienso que .. han eliminado a un genio, la inteligencia colectiva no conviene a unos cuantos, pero…continuará. AARON GRACIAS DE TODO CORAZÓN.

  18. I have just learned about Aaron in the last few days and my grief burns my heart. In times when people – both young and old – have few examples of what greatness is possible, one of the brightest stars has been struck down.

    The insanity surrounding the facts of this case – a case that boggles the mind on two counts – One, that it exists at all and Two, that the accuser still walks free – reads like an unlikely movie plot. Yet, we all lost Aaron.

    Blessings to you and your family.

  19. Such a sad, terrible and tragic event that clearly points blame to others who could have prevented his suicide. What a great gift he gave to so many. He will be remembered — and missed.

  20. Meus sentimentos a família e aos amigos de Aaron pela perda desse grande ser humano genial. Sua generosidade e seus ideais ultrapassam os limites de compreensão da sociedade egoísta, medíocre e estúpida. Espero que sua luta siga em frente e inspire outros jovens a continuá-la. Descanse em paz!

  21. Very sad to hear this and my most sincere condolences to near and dear who lost Aaron.

    Also points to the need of support at times human beings required to continue a normal life, whether it is a genius or layman.

    There are so many unfortunate persons like Aaron persecuted by thugs like Carmen just because they have sided with those in power and able to twist the laws for their benefits.

    It believe is high time to organise and work together for ” DefensiveCommons” for the sake of those innocent souls at international level.

    Read a similar story here:

    or here:

  22. Next time you think of applying for a U.S. patent, copyright, or trademark, think of Aaron Swartz, and get a Creative Commons license instead.

  23. So sad.I was shocked when I came to know that a great man is now no more.He was one of the greatest personalities in the IT era.May he rest in peace and his soul get peace in heaven.Adios my good friend

  24. Rest in Peace Aaron!! Your contributions to the society will be remembered for long time.
    You’re truly a genius.

  25. How sad to hear this news. A young man who did more in his short life than many people do in their lifetimes.

    Both Aaron and his family are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Humanities loss is heavens gain. But what a gift he has given us. Thank you, Aaron. You live on in your work and in peoples hearts. You will not be forgotten.

  26. Yes, we lost a great person with amazing talents.Seriously bro it felt that day as if someone too close of my own relative died.Aaron, you’re a great person… why did you do that! We lost you.

  27. Aaron, your name and your contribution to the free world will be mentioned this Saturday at a linguistic conference in Poland. RIP, and thanks for inspiration, soulmate.

  28. These lyrics were written for you:

    “May you grow up to be righteous
    May you grow up to be true
    May you always know the truth
    And see the lights surrounding you
    May you always be courageous
    Stand upright and be strong
    May you stay forever young
    Forever young, forever young
    May you stay forever young.” RIP Aaron.

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