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6 May, 2014 20:54

Aaron Swartz documentarian discusses ‘The Internet’s Own Boy’

A filmmaker preparing to release a feature-length documentary about Aaron Swartz tells RT that he was amazed by the outpour of support that has helped make his forthcoming flick about the later computer prodigy possible.

“The Internet’s Own Boy” director Brian Knappenberger told RT’s Ameera David on Tuesday this week that he was driven to make his latest documentary after an earlier film of his landed him on a panel last year just days after Swartz, 26, committed suicide in Brooklyn, New York.

Knappenberger said he earned himself a spot as a panelist after the release of his last film, “We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivist,” when he became overwhelmed with personal stories about Swartz from those who knew him well.

“I immediately started filming and trying to get people’s responses, trying to understand what happened, this kind of extraordinary life. And that was at the beginning of this wave of frustration and anger and sympathy for his cause that just kind of took the internet by storm,” he told RT.

Indeed, before long Knappenberger produced a short trailer for his film-in-progress and posted it on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter last April. A year later he’s raised more than $93,000 from over 1,500 contributors and is planning on finally releasing his film later this year.

That support, he said, “Showed us that there is a real community of people that wanted to hear this story, and were outraged and angry about what had happened to Aaron but also, I think, inspired by him.”

As he discovered more about Swartz, Knappenberger told RT, he realized “I really wanted to tell the kind of epic story of this remarkable life.”

Aaron Swartz has been credited with being an integral figure in the development of the internet during the last decade-and-a-half, and is attributed with helping develop the web feed format RSS, the Creative Commons organization and the website Reddit. He was equally as involved with activism, and in 2010 co-founded the internet non-profit group Demand Progress in order to raise awareness of tech policy issues, such as Congress' failed attempt to pass the Stop Online Privacy Act, or SOPA, later that year.

In 2011, Swartz was charged with violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after allegedly downloading a trove of publically-available academic articles. He faced several decades in prison if convicted at trial, but committed suicide before his case was heard.

Speaking to RT, Knappenberger said he hopes his forthcoming film will rekindle interest in Aaron’s Law — a proposed plan to make changes to the CFAA that stalled in Washington shortly after in was introduced in the day’s after Swartz’s passing.

“We hope that the film kind of reenergizes that effort to change some of the worst parts of the CFAA,” Knappenberger added, “which was really kind of an awful law.”

“The problem is it stalled out,” he added. “We hope to kind of reinvigorate it. It’s a broad, vague law that needs changing.”

“The Internet’s Own Boy” is expected to play in select theatre beginning June 27.