In the compelling documentary "The Internet's Own Boy," the life of Aaron Swartz, the computer genius and free-information advocate who committed suicide last year at age 26, is turned into an indictment of prosecutorial overreach and a rousing call to action. Using interviews by Swartz' family, friends and tech colleagues, Knappenberger constructs a portrait of Swartz as a wildly intelligent and optimistic computer expert who used his coding skills in a personal campaign to make public information as accessible as possible. When he tried to put that philosophy into action, using MIT's computers to download public academic research by the truckload, the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston threatened to prosecute his butt clear to Mars with intimidation tactics that many in the film see as an effort to scare hackers from trying anything similar. The movie's most powerful moments are provided by Swartz himself, passionately arguing (in archival footage) for a society where private corporations don't reap the profits off of public information.
Sean P. Means
"The Internet's Own Boy" screens again in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival: Saturday at 12:45 p.m. at the Broadway Centre Cinema 3, Salt Lake City.