Aaron Swartz, a wizardly programmer who as a teenager helped to develop code that delivered ever-changing Web content to users and later became a steadfast crusader to make that information freely available, was found dead on Friday in his New York apartment, an apparent suicide.
An uncle, Michael Wolf, said that Mr. Swartz had apparently hanged himself, and that Mr. Swartz’s girlfriend had discovered the body.
At 14, Mr. Swartz helped create RSS, the nearly ubiquitous software that allows users to subscribe to online information. Later, he became even more of an Internet folk hero, pushing to make many Web files free and open to the public. But in July 2011, he was indicted on federal charges of gaining illegal access to JSTOR, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals, and downloading 4.8 million articles and documents, nearly the entire library.
Charges in the case, including wire fraud and computer fraud, were pending at the time of Mr. Swartz’s death, carrying potential penalties of up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.
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