Brian Knappenberger

internets own boy

Barely a year passed between the death of Aaron Swartz and the premiere of a documentary honoring him. Normally something like this quickly turned-around film, The Internet’s Own Boy, would be all respectful tribute and emotional testimony. Much of it is, and on the latter point there is understandably a lot of tears from the interviewees, most of them family and friends who are speaking very soon after Swartz’s suicide in January 2013. But while director Brian Knappenberger primarily offers up a loving, elegiac biography aimed at those who already or will see the subject as a hero, there’s a lot more to this doc than who Swartz was, why he was great and how much of a tragedy it is that he’s no longer around. All of that basic stuff can be sufficiently gleaned from a Wikipedia page, and that’s surely an appropriate place to do so given that Swartz created a similar site of his own as a preteen computer prodigy and continued working on projects devoted to free information over the next 14 years of his short existence. To note some of his achievements, we have Swartz to thank in part for RSS, Reddit and Creative Commons as well as for the defeat of SOPA, the infamous Congressional bill to fight piracy that would have drastically altered the web for the worse. He also became the target of federal prosecutors looking to set an example of deterrence following his arrest for stealing academic articles from JSTOR. And […]

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aaron swartz documentary

One of the best documentaries of last year is We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, a film that looks at the history of Internet activists/hackers/pranksters Anonymous while remarkably tying together stuff like LOLCats and the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement (stream it now via Amazon or download from iTunes). Now that doc’s director, Brian Knappenberger, is taking on another web-based story, which will show how the movie WarGames led to the suicide of one of the 21st century’s greatest geniuses. Not that it will put any blame on a 1982 movie starring Matthew Broderick nor focus on that particular chain of events. The Internet’s Own Boy will tell the short life story of computer programmer Aaron Swartz, one of the minds behind numerous Internet-related projects including RSS (at age 14!), Reddit, Markdown, Watchdog.net, and Creative Commons and an activist against SOPA and for WikiLeaks. Sadly, he hung himself in January of this year (at age 26), following two years of being hit with felony charges stemming from illegally accessing and downloading material from the online journal database JSTOR.

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