Shortly after entrepreneur and internet activist Aaron Swartz took his own life, his family and others were quick to blame the government’s intense prosecution for the tragedy. The incident has led many to wonder if changes may soon be coming to the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, under which Swartz was prosecuted for illegally gaining access to academic journals and documents. Joining me to discuss the story is Jessica Mendelson of Seyfarth Shaw and their blog, Trading Secrets.
Allegedly MIT’s computer systems were breached by Aaron Swartz who then downloaded millions of scholarly articles, but there are no claims of copyrights infringement. The New York Times reported that in July 2011 Aaron Swartz was indicted on charges that he:
…broke into the computer networks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to gain access to JSTOR, a nonprofit online service for distributing scholarly articles online, and downloaded 4.8 million articles and other documents — nearly the entire library.
The New York Times reports:
Aaron Swartz, a 24-year-old programmer and online political activist, has been indicted in Boston on charges that he stole more than four million documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and JSTOR, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. (Read the full indictment below.)
Mr. Swartz was indicted last Thursday by the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, and the indictment was unsealed Tuesday. The charges could result in up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
JSTOR’s press statement is here. One of Swartz’s companies, Infogami, was funded by Y Combinator and acquired by reddit, so this is big news in the tech world. Demand Progress, a non-profit Swartz founded, is understandably upset…