Turns out the world hadn’t quite heard the last of Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist and Reddit co-founder who killed himself in January. The makers of an unreleased documentary about the fight over the open Internet, War for the Web, have just released a snippet of unedited footage from what they call “the last video interview with Aaron Swartz.” It’s embedded below.
We don’t have any way to independently verify the filmmakers’ claim to Swartz’s “last” video interview (it was filmed on July 10, 2012). And near as I can tell, the portion of the interview released so far — this clip is about eight minutes long, whereas the entire thing runs “several hours,” according to the film’s PR rep — doesn’t appear to break much new ground.
In particular, it doesn’t even raise the federal prosecution of Swartz for surreptitiously downloading — the feds termed it “stealing” — four million academic articles from an academic database called JSTOR, an overzealous pursuit that some critics believe contributed to Swartz’s suicide. Unsurprisingly, the interview doesn’t touch on Swartz’s long battle with depression, either.
But it’s still an engaging eight-minute conversation with a handsome and articulate activist who now looms as large — if not larger — in death as he did in life. The best part comes at around 5:00 in the interview, where Swartz waxes philosophical on the threat that copyright maximalism, as embodied in bills like SOPA and the ongoing war against digital piracy, poses to creativity and innovation.
See for yourself.
Update, 9:31am PT:Turns out this video is an eight-minute excerpt of a much longer interview, a fact that wasn’t clear from the information the filmmakers’ representative initially provided us. I’ve updated the item throughout to make that clear.