We recently reported about how the death of a prominent internet activist and a genius of sorts, Aaron Swartz’s death erupted the web into protests. He committed suicide after being hounded by U.S. federal attorneys for years over mass downloading academic journals from MIT and JSTOR. To honor his memory, researchers have started posting copyrighted research articles on Twitter.
The frustration of the entire online community was palpable at Swartz’s tragic demise. For years, the U.S. attorneys showed a fierce keenness to go after him and have him convicted. This wasn’t surprising given his unrelenting support for anti-SOPA protests.
The so-called ‘crime’ that was pinned on him was the illegal download of 4 million documents from MIT and JSTOR. Swartz never released any of these documents and returned the downloaded materials to JSTOR intact. MIT, however, decided to ride on the high tide and became an accomplice with the federal attorneys. The duo was mustering all its power to have Swartz convicted and send him behind bars for 35 years.
Researchers on Twitter have now decided to mourn Swartz’s demise and honor his memory by releasing links to copyrighted academic articles on Twitter. Micah Allen, a prominent researcher, kickstarted this campaign through a post on Reddit which read, “A fitting tribute to Aaron might be a mass protest uploading of copyright-protected research articles. Dump them on Gdocs, tweet the link. Think of the great blu-ray encoding protest but on a bigger scale for research articles.”
Soon after the post, hundreds of Twitter users were actively sharing such articles under the #pdftribute hashtag. So far, the hashtag has left more than 2.5 million impressions and is still gaining strength. Swartz is gone and we can do nothing but remember the young genius and the way he attempted to reshape the world; free dissemination of knowledge to which public is legally entitled is only a befitting way to remember him.