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Aaron Swartz’s death raises the question of European data law changes

EC VP says news gave pause for thought
Thu Jan 24 2013, 10:50

A EUROPEAN COMMISSION VP said she was saddened by the news of internet activist Aaron Swartz's death and pondered whether it should spur changes in the data laws.

Neelie Kroes blogged about the death of the internet activist yesterday, saying that she, like the internet community, was shocked.

"You've probably seen the terrible news about the death of Aaron Swartz. It's always horrifying when someone so young and so clearly talented feels they have no option but to take their own life," she wrote.

"I know that this is something that shook the internet community deeply. And my thoughts are with his family, and what they must be going through right now."

Kroes said that Swartz, who was facing 35 years or more in prison, was a man that was doing good for society.

"This was a man who saw that greater openness can be good for citizens, and good for society. Hugely disruptive - but hugely beneficial," she said. "For me, the case is particularly clear when there aren't copyright issues, when information was already paid for by taxpayers, and when more openness can help new innovations and scientific discoveries."

Kroes said Swartz's death should lead to some reflection about the value of internet freedom.

"I would never condone unlawful activity. But in my view, if our laws, frameworks and practices stand in the way of us getting all those benefits, then maybe they need to be changed. Agree or disagree with his methods, Aaron could see the open direction we're heading in, and its benefits," she added.

"In the meantime, those scientists who are paying tribute by making their own work legally, openly available aren't just showing their respects - they are also benefiting scientific progress."

Thousands of academic papers and other works have been made available in tribute to Swartz. µ


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