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The Internet’s Own Boy is a great new film about the internet prodigy Aaron Swartz. We talk with filmmaker Brian Knappenberger about the impressive contributions of the young man who ended his life in January, 2013 while facing heavy-handed prosecution for a minor offense.Click here for free audiobook download from Audible, and earn $15 for the PBC Podcast!
Knappenberger is a skilled documentarian who has worked for PBS Frontline and created We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists about the online hacktivist nongroup Anonymous; Life After War about political tensions in postwar Afghanistan; and A Murder in Kyiv about the death of a Ukrainian journalist, reportedly at the hands of government officials.
He describes Aaron’s development as a gifted computer genius to a teen inventor and entrepreneur who developed the RSS feed (essential to podcasts), a precursor of Wikipedia, and an early model of the Internet Archive. He was influenced by, and he influenced, great minds like professor Lawrence Lessig. Swartz was a fierce advocate of open access to information, describing it as a moral imperative. Swartz was also a founder of Reddit, and made some money when it was bought by Conde Nast.
Knappenberger takes us through Swartz’s legal problems that preceded his suicide, and the hard line taken by federal prosecutors over Swartz’s actions in copying millions of files from an academic database called JSTOR. While Swartz kept his legal battles very private, he was very public about his opposition to a bill called SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) and was instrumental in its defeat.
The film opens in theaters in 25 cities June 27, and is available at iTunes and Vimeo under the “Creative Commons” principles that Swartz advocated.