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Plot: The story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz, who took his own life at the age of 26. Runtime: 105 mins Release Date: 27 Jun 2014
Aaron's story and the imbalanced US justice system (by benjamin-boynton)
This non-fictional film documents the devastating and mortifying story of the the late Aaron Swartz and his battle with politics and the US justice system. It's heartwarming, funny, and tearful. You'll need to sit down to watch this one.Anyone that uses computers should watch this film!The film implied important questions:1. Do computer users have any rights in the United States at all? If not, do the lawmakers not know enough about computers to make them?2. Why do US Federal prosecutors threaten computer users when the "injured parties" state that they do not seek <more>
prosecution?3. Why does a university like MIT not protect the fundamental rights of its students?4. Isn't the primary role of a university to protect and nourish the fundamental rights of students before teaching can occur?5. How much of Aaron's prosecution was based on legal precedent and how much of it was politically motivated?6. Should any amount of politics be tolerable in a legal case where someone's life is on-the-line?7. Why is the U.S. secret service prosecuting civilians in matters not related to national security?I cannot begin to answer these questions by myself, but someone much smarter than me, like Aaron, may have been able to.Computer experts have historically been blamed for the mistakes of others that did not know what they were doing with technology. Experts are threatened, scared into submission, and punished for the smallest infraction. Schools, governments, and everyday people are scared of computer experts and the power they command.This movie leads one to believe that the nation's leaders are letting their fears control their decisions about technology instead of seeking out the experts and being open about their policies. This film covers all of this and more.It most importantly serves as Aaron's story. Aaron is portrayed as a brilliant young computer expert that won't give up. It shows Aaron from a young age up until his last moments. His family, his friends, dreams and aspirations are all present. It shows his success at business and his genius. The filmmakers did an amazing job in making this beautiful film. This a tribute to Aaron's life and work.I highly recommend watching this film.
A deeply moving and very disturbing documentary (by howard.schumann)
In a world where idealism is a scarce commodity, Aaron Swartz stood out. A computer programmer and political and social activist, Aaron had a quaint goal — to make the world a better place, to help us live our lives so that they make a difference. Ultimately, however, though he tried to save the world, he could not save himself. On January 11, 2013, Swartz, age 26, hanged himself in his New York apartment, after having been vigorously pursued by the U.S. Department of Justice for two years for hacking MIT's computer network and downloading 4.8 million documents from the JSTOR database, <more>
a private corporation that charged exorbitant fees for non-subscribers to view online research.Swartz's story is told in a deeply moving and very disturbing documentary The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, directed by Brian Knappenberger. The film traces Swartz' life from the time he was a three-year-old prodigy able to read a meeting notice posted on the refrigerator to his later years when he created the prototype for Wikipedia, helped start up RSS and Reddit and wrote specifications for Creative Commons, an organization devoted to enabling the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. Wherever he was, however, he challenged the system and the corporate organizational structure whether it was in high school, Stanford University, or Silicon Valley.Though the film does not break new ground stylistically, the interviews with Aaron's family, girlfriends, and friends such as Net activists Tim Berners-Lee who created the World Wide Web and author Cory Doctorow are illuminating and often inspiring. Some of the best scenes are Swartz's political campaign to defeat SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act introduced in Congress and expected to pass. He galvanized the opposition with creative use of the Internet to ultimately defeat a bill he thought would restrict Internet freedom. He also worked for now Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the few progressive voices in our politics.Swartz defended his action in hacking MIT's computers in a manifesto that read in part, "Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier." In the tradition of Thoreau, he said, "There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture." While Aaron's decision to free scholarly works from MIT from private corporate control may have been ill-advised, the government's treatment of him as a dangerous criminal was unwarranted and out of proportion to the crime. Originally indicted on four counts, after his SOPA campaign was successful, Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the district of Massachusetts, upped the number of counts to thirteen to "send a message." She accused Swartz of violating Title 18 of the U.S. Code, which carries a maximum penalty of 50 years in jail and one million dollars in fines.Ortiz who pursued the case even after JSTOR agreed to drop the charges, justified the indictment by saying, "stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data, or dollars." Attorney General Eric Holder defended Ortiz's prosecution before the Senate Judiciary Committee, terming it, "a good use of prosecutorial discretion." After Swartz' death, Ortiz issued a statement saying that her office had never intended to seek maximum penalties against him, a small consolation to Swartz' family.In contrast, the U.S. Department of Justice never intended to seek ANY penalties against those responsible for the financial manipulations and fraud that wiped out the jobs and living standards of millions of people. The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is not just an advocacy film, but a character study of a young man who was not afraid to challenge what he thought was an unjust system. A clip is shown of Swartz saying, "I think you should always be questioning, I take this very scientific attitude in which everything you've learned is just provisional, that it's always open to recantation, refutation I think the same thing applies to society." As a fitting epitaph to Aaron's life, author Justin Peters, recalled an event held one week after his death. A large banner was spread out on a table where people recorded memories of Aaron and messages of condolence. According to Peters, "near the end of the night, a slender boy in a plain sweatshirt who looked too young to be there came over to the table. He uncapped a marker. He wrote simply, 'We will continue.'"
I've been giving "1" ratings to a lot of recent Hollywood films, but not this one. Here is a real documentary, and it presents and honest and thorough biography of an exceptional individual.I like to bring attention to this approach , Documentary, as opposed to "Based on a true story." I am really sick and tired of the latter and the most recent abomination is American SNIPER, a warped work of fiction which some have compared to an un-animated version of TEAM America: WORLD POLICE.Usually when I see a highly rated movie that I didn't like, I come here and read the <more>
reviews sorted by "Hated it' first, so even thought I liked this documentary a lot, I decided to do that for this one.One reviewer said, "I saw nothing in Aaron but an average kid who was way over-hyped as a "prodigy" while doing nothing of real significance."Personally, I have the ability to recognize when someone else is a whole lot smarter than me and Aaron Swartz was one of those people. Watch this biography, and you'll learn a lot.Aaron Swartz was smart enough to see that one powerful Federal prosecutor was about to ruin the rest of his life, and was both gutsy and smart enough to prevent that from happening. Such is life. It's not much different than if he went swimming in the ocean and got eaten by a shark. We live in that kind of a world and always have.Aaron Swartz got more things done for the betterment of our world in his 26 years than a billion of us will do if we live to be centurions. RIP Aaron Swartz, well done.
The tragic story of Aaron Swartz, told by those closest to him (by xWRL)
This warm yet chilling documentary retraces the life of Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide at age 26 after a couple of years of severe and deepening pressure from the criminal justice system, which was trying him for a number of felonies resulting from his breaking into MIT's computers.We first see him as a young kid in home movies, then as a prodigy who while very young was brimming with new ideas for the Internet and applied genius-level programming skills to co-developing RSS and Reddit. Bored with college and with working for the business establishment, he turned to activism, <more>
promoting an open Web culture for the benefit of all users.Swartz's activism turned into hacktivism, landing him in deep trouble with the Justice Department, which charged him with crimes that could have sent him to prison for 35 years. Touching, pointed accounts from family members and close associates describe what Aaron was like and how he responded to unyielding Justice Department efforts to use him as an example. The interviews with law professor Lawrence Lessig and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee are unforgettably moving. The film does a good job of calling into question Swartz's harsh treatment by the same Justice Department that shied away from prosecuting the big money interests that brought down our financial system. Whether you sympathize with Swartz or not, the film does a solid job of showing how blind justice in the U.S. can be when it wants to be.
The struggle for free data continues (by ecotech_nz)
Orin Kerr, professor and former federal prosecutor, describes the motivation of the government's case as their fear that, as stated in his "Open Access Manifesto", Aaron believed it was a moral imperative to be committed to breaking the law to overcome a law that was unjust, and that, if allowed to succeed in "nullifying" the law, that everyone would have access to the data base and therefore "the toothpaste would be out of the tube" and somehow chaos would ensue, or as he phrases it, "Swartz's side would win". Apparently, free access to <more>
scholarly and scientific journals must be restricted to protect the people from themselves.There is also the issue of civil disobedience in general and the ways those in power portray such actions and those who encourage them. As one other reviewer here states, "when you commit an act of criminal civic disobedience, you should do so accepting that you will most likely pay the price for that action". That is true, however, as Gilbert and Sullivan suggested, the punishment should fit the crime, especially when, as in this case, the "crime" is questionable at best. I wonder how the current US administration would view the acts of Gandhi or Mandela were they occurring now and posing a threat to their political status quo and not seen safely through the rear view mirror of history. It wasn't that long ago that many in power in America considered Mandela , in particular, a "terrorist". This excellent documentary is a cautionary tale that all free thinking and well meaning people must see and understand. Secrecy is power and governments will do whatever they can to protect it. As Aaron himself suggested, this is a battle that will never be won, but can never be abandoned.See this film.
In the age of piracy, SOPA, and net neutrality, this is a must see. (by KnightsofNi11)
When a documentary can illicit tears of both anger and sadness, you know it must be doing something right. Such is the case with The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz was one of the co-founders of the internet's so called front page; Reddit. He was also one of the most outspoken and inspired activists fighting to keep the internet free, protecting the rights and privileges of the American people whose government was trying tirelessly to censor the free speech granted by the web. Tragically, he took his own life at the age of 26 due to the constant pressures <more>
and endless scrutiny and indictment placed onto him by the American government. This film chronicles his tragically short life and attempts to put Aaron's name out there for the sake of carrying on his legacy. There aren't a whole lot of documentaries or films in general out there that I would say it is crucial that you watch. However, The Internet's Own Boy is one of these films. It pulls back the curtain on one of the most significant and relevant issues of our modern era, which is fighting censorship and maintaining the ability to access and attain the necessities the internet grants us. For instance the film starts out by showing us Swartz's many hacking campaigns where he would obtain legal and court documents from the American courts that one would otherwise have to unfairly pay for, and making it free to the public. It shows Aaron's fight for people's right to information, something the government seems to be stopping at nothing to revoke. It's truly sickening to see the things that Aaron, his friends, and his colleagues are put through in their fight for such a just cause. There are parts of this film that are absolutely infuriating, and there are parts that inspire as much as the other moments enrage. The victorious battle against the SOPA bill, for instance, highlights one great victory that shows off the American people's ability to make change happen, and fight back against what they know is wrong. This film shows what civil disobedience, protest, and the aptly coined term "hacktivism" are capable of, but it also shows the ignorant unfairness of what the government is capable of as well. Hence the frustration. It highlights the absurd idiocracy of a system stuck in the past, one that literally bases its bylaws off of The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act written in the 1980's when computers were a brand new idea and the endless scope of the internet wasn't even a conceived notion yet. The Internet's Own Boy strikes at a lot of issues that so easily get swept under the rug, and urges all of its viewers to be conscious of our rights and whether or not they are being stripped from us, because it can happen right under our noses. It concedes to us that we can't settle for unfair censorship and we must continue to fight back against a system that wants to tie our hands behind our backs and put duct tape over our mouths. Yes, the story of Aaron Swartz is a very sad one, and the film strikes emotional chords that give a beautiful amount of weight to the story being told. But the goal of The Internet's Own Boy is not to sour our moods with the tragic story of one of the 21st century's greatest minds. It is to raise awareness of this war against censorship; a war that can and must be won. The relevance of the issue is too immediate and too vital to our free speech system to be ignored. If you use the internet, you must see The Internet's Own Boy, and you must help carry on Aaron Swartz's noble legacy.
An Important Film about a Complex Internet Pioneer's Short Life and Tragic Death. (by JustCuriosity)
The Internet's Own Boy was very well-received at its showing in Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film is simultaneously a biography of the tragic death of internet pioneer Aaron Swartz and at the same time a fascinating history of the development of the online political movements that he devoted his life to. The film tells a fascinating story of young genius deeply involved in the early development of the internet including co-founding of Reddit. His genius is unquestionable. The film really provides a tribute to a talented young man and presents a strong case that he was unjustly and <more>
selectively prosecuted and overcharged by an overzealous prosecutor. This prosecution seems to have provoked his suicide.But the film is unable to establish any real emotional distance from its subject in order to present an objective full picture of Aaron. Early scenes show home movie pictures of Aaron as an adorable precocious toddler playing with his brothers. From this beginning it is impossible to establish the emotional independence necessary to shine any sort of critical light on Aaron's life or activities. The interviews are all with his family, friends and supporters and don't really critique his efforts. He becomes a victim who despite his incredible genius seems to lose responsibility for his own actions including his own suicide. He becomes purely a victim of government persecution with no real responsibility for his own life decisions including his various hacking activities that ultimately lead to his arrest. The film really presents Aaron Swartz as a modern-day martyr for the cause of an open access to the internet that he deeply believed in and dedicated himself to. Perhaps because of his recent and tragic death the filmmaker seems unwilling to question the ethics of Aaron's hacker-like tactics. There really aren't any voices raising serious questions about whether his efforts to take the law into his own hands by downloading millions of documents was truly an appropriate form of civil disobedience. He did, in fact, steal millions of articles and violate intellectual property rights through his actions. He undoubtedly believed that what he was doing was right and just. The film is thus more of a tribute to his life and a critique of the criminal justice system than it is a balanced examination of his controversial history which deserves closer examination. The filmmaker seems to be too close to Aaron's legacy to present a truly objective self-critical examination of his legacy and his somewhat radical view of open access to knowledge and information. While it is easy to argue for that view, it overlooks the complexity of case for protecting intellectual property rights.Ironically, Aaron seems more far impressive and righteous when he is fighting successfully to defeat the SOPA bill than when he is stealing copyrighted materials. This showed his remarkable ability to organize online and unify people in a collective action that made a real difference for the future of the internet. The tragedy is that this great young activist self-destructed. The filmmaker turns his heroism into victimization and I think may actually undermine his own effort to pay tribute to Aaron. The best tributes are those that are present a complete picture rather than build-up a myth. Never-the-less, despite its flaws this is a powerful and important film that is highly recommended to begin to understand who Aaron Swartz was and to learn about the important issues of intellectual freedom online that he devoted himself to.
A good documentary of a very important subject. (by FunkyMan)
This is a very good documentary of a subject that EVERYONE should be interested in. If you're interested in the Internet, technology, open publishing science or law , or freedom, you MUST watch this documentary. It's a moving and disturbing story of a very important young man, and how the government tried to make an example out of him.Where it fails, is dealing with Aaron's mental health issues. His struggles with depression which he documented in his blog were glossed over, and even dismissed such as when he brother said he didn't remember any mood swings as a child . I <more>
think this was purposefully done to fit the thesis of the documentary that the prosecution backed him into a corner , and ignores a major part of Aaron's life. Just because he was "at-risk" due to mental illness, doesn't mean he wasn't targeted and persecuted. Instead, his depression was swept under the rug by the filmmaker, as it so often is in our society.Overall, this is a very important film and I would highly recommend it. However, read Aaron's blogs and writings for supplemental info!
The story of Aaron Swartz, who killed himself at the age of 26, is sad but inevitable consequence of the world we inhabit.From his earliest days, he was a prodigy, not only developing the skills of reading and processing information at an early age, but acquiring a unique ability to write programs and offer innovative solutions to many problems presented in the early years of the Internet. With the help of testimonies from Swartz's family, plus colleagues and friends including the inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, Brian Knappenberger's film traces the meteoric career of a genius <more>
who appeared to be able to offer solutions that no one else could. More significantly, Swartz had the ability to communicate with his interlocutors, not just in small-group situations but in public arenas as well. This is what rendered him such a powerful figure; although physically diminutive, he had a gift for speech-making that proved hypnotic in its effect.Matters came to a head, however, when Swartz hacked the JSTOR sits, an address used mostly for publishing scholarly journals across all disciplines, downloaded the information and made it available to all web users. This completely contravened JSTOR's principle, which was to make that information only available to subscribers, mostly in academic institutions. The principle might have been a noble one why shouldn't all users have equal access to information, especially if it aids their research? , but the American government's response was predictably harsh, as they charged Swartz with a variety of crimes under an Act issued as long ago as the mid- Eighties.Knappenberger's film suggests with some justification that this reaction was ludicrously out of proportion to the nature of Swartz's so-called 'crimes.' He had neither challenged the Constitution nor caused harm to others; on the contrary he had simply worked in the interests of democratization. He was the victim of the same kind of paranoia that underpinned the anti-communist campaigns six decades ago, when legions of innocent people were rounded up and made to 'confess' their alleged involvement with a plot to subvert the American way of life, even if they had not done anything. The same applied to Swartz, who was offered the promise of lenient legal treatment in exchange for a 'confession.'The familiarity of Swartz's plight suggests that a climate of intolerance still exists in a country that consistently advertises its democratic credentials, especially when compared with other territories in the world. THE INTERNET'S OWN BOY suggests otherwise; if the government was truly democratic, it would either have understood Swartz's motives, or meted out the same harsh treatment to other criminals - such as those who precipitated the Wall Street crisis of 2008. But who said anything was truly equal in American society?THE INTERNET'S OWN BOT is a polemical piece that leaves viewers feeling both angry and frustrated - angry that a talented soul like Swartz should have had his life cut brutally short, and frustrated that the government should have pursued such heavy-handed treatment. If the film can inspire more activism to try and change official policies, it will have achieved much.