The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime”

I did not know Aaron Swartz, unless you count having copies of a person’s entire digital life on your forensics server as knowing him. I did once meet his father, an intelligent and dedicated man who was clearly pouring his life into defending his son. My deepest condolences go out to him and the rest of Aaron’s family during what must be the hardest time of their lives.

If the good that men do is oft interred with their bones, so be it, but in the meantime I feel a responsibility to correct some of the erroneous information being posted as comments to otherwise informative discussions at Reddit, Hacker News and Boing Boing. Apparently some people feel the need to self-aggrandize by opining on the guilt of the recently departed, and I wanted to take this chance to speak on behalf of a man who can no longer defend himself. I had hoped to ask Aaron to discuss these issues on the Defcon stage once he was acquitted, but now that he has passed it is important that his memory not be besmirched by the ignorant and uninformed. I have confirmed with Aaron’s attorneys that I am free to discuss these issues now that the criminal case is moot.

I was the expert witness on Aaron’s side of US vs Swartz, engaged by his attorneys last year to help prepare a defense for his April trial. Until Keker Van Nest called iSEC Partners I had very little knowledge of Aaron’s plight, and although we have spoken at or attended many of the same events we had never once met.

Should you doubt my neutrality, let me establish my bona fides. I have led the investigation of dozens of computer crimes, from Latvian hackers blackmailing a stock brokerage to Chinese government-backed attacks against dozens of American enterprises. I have investigated small insider violations of corporate policy to the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and have responded to break-ins at social networks, e-tailers and large banks. While we are no stranger to pro bono work, having served as experts on EFF vs Sony BMG and Sony vs Hotz, our reports have also been used in the prosecution of at least a half dozen attackers.  In short, I am no long-haired-hippy-anarchist who believes that anything goes on the Internet. I am much closer to the stereotypical capitalist-white-hat sellout that the antisec people like to rant about (and steal mail spools from) in the weeks before BlackHat.

I know a criminal hack when I see it, and Aaron’s downloading of journal articles from an unlocked closet is not an offense worth 35 years in jail.

The facts:

  • MIT operates an extraordinarily open network. Very few campus networks offer you a routable public IP address via unauthenticated DHCP and then lack even basic controls to prevent abuse. Very few captured portals on wired networks allow registration by any visitor, nor can they be easily bypassed by just assigning yourself an IP address. In fact, in my 12 years of professional security work I have never seen a network this open.
  • In the spirit of the MIT ethos, the Institute runs this open, unmonitored and unrestricted network on purpose. Their head of network security admitted as much in an interview Aaron’s attorneys and I conducted in December. MIT is aware of the controls they could put in place to prevent what they consider abuse, such as downloading too many PDFs from one website or utilizing too much bandwidth, but they choose not to.  
  • MIT also chooses not to prompt users of their wireless network with terms of use or a definition of abusive practices.
  • At the time of Aaron’s actions, the JSTOR website allowed an unlimited number of downloads by anybody on MIT’s 18.x Class-A network. The JSTOR application lacked even the most basic controls to prevent what they might consider abusive behavior, such as CAPTCHAs triggered on multiple downloads, requiring accounts for bulk downloads, or even the ability to pop a box and warn a repeat downloader.
  • Aaron did not “hack” the JSTOR website for all reasonable definitions of “hack”. Aaron wrote a handful of basic python scripts that first discovered the URLs of journal articles and then used curl to request them. Aaron did not use parameter tampering, break a CAPTCHA, or do anything more complicated than call a basic command line tool that downloads a file in the same manner as right-clicking and choosing “Save As” from your favorite browser.
  • Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity, as evidenced by his very verbose .bash_history, his uncleared browser history and lack of any encryption of the laptop he used to download these files. Changing one’s MAC address (which the government inaccurately identified as equivalent to a car’s VIN number) or putting a mailinator email address into a captured portal are not crimes. If they were, you could arrest half of the people who have ever used airport wifi.
  • The government provided no evidence that these downloads caused a negative effect on JSTOR or MIT, except due to silly overreactions such as turning off all of MIT’s JSTOR access due to downloads from a pretty easily identified user agent.
  • I cannot speak as to the criminal implications of accessing an unlocked closet on an open campus, one which was also used to store personal effects by a homeless man. I would note that trespassing charges were dropped against Aaron and were not part of the Federal case.

In short, Aaron Swartz was not the super hacker breathlessly described in the Government’s indictment and forensic reports, and his actions did not pose a real danger to JSTOR, MIT or the public. He was an intelligent young man who found a loophole that would allow him to download a lot of documents quickly. This loophole was created intentionally by MIT and JSTOR, and was codified contractually in the piles of paperwork turned over during discovery.

If I had taken the stand as planned and had been asked by the prosecutor whether Aaron’s actions were “wrong”, I would probably have replied that what Aaron did would better be described as “inconsiderate”. In the same way it is inconsiderate to write a check at the supermarket while a dozen people queue up behind you or to check out every book at the library needed for a History 101 paper. It is inconsiderate to download lots of files on shared wifi or to spider Wikipedia too quickly, but none of these actions should lead to a young person being hounded for years and haunted by the possibility of a 35 year sentence.

Professor Lessig will always write more eloquently than I can on prosecutorial discretion and responsibility, but I certainly agree that Aaron’s death demands a great deal of soul searching by the US Attorney who decided to massively overcharge this young man and the MIT administrators who decided to involve Federal law enforcement.

I cannot speak as to all of the problems that contributed to Aaron’s death, but I do strongly believe that he did not deserve the treatment he received while he was alive. It is incumbent on all of us to figure out how to create some positive change out of this unnecessary tragedy. I’ll write more on that later. First I need to spend some time hugging my kids.

Edit 1: Fixed typo. Thank you @ramenlabs.

Posted from San Carlos, CA.

669 responses

    • The arrogant government prosecutors who, in effect, murdered Aaron, as well as the irresponsible academics who shrugged their shoulders in indifference and the various media outlets that casually reported on his arrest, should think carefully about the lack of proportion in the American criminal justice system, and the devastating impact it can have on real lives.

      Authorities in New York have undertaken a similarly disproportionate assault on Internet freedom and academic whistle-blowing, arresting and prosecuting a blogger who sent out “Gmail confessions” in which a well-known New York University department chairman appeared to be eccentrically accusing himself of plagiarism. Again, there appears to be nothing but silence from the relevant communities. For further information on the case, see:

      • P.s. see the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Art. 49.3:

        Principles of legality and proportionality of criminal offences and penalties

        3. The severity of penalties must not be disproportionate to the criminal offense.

        I will leave others to explain why legal commentators, lawmakers and sentencing courts in the United States have systematically ignored this principle, treated as basic law in the European Union. And I would reiterate that the current case in New York is a nauseating illustration of our moral backwardness in this regard.

      • P.p.s. (to my additional comment below): US constitutional case law apparently forbids only “grossly” disproportionate sentences. Clearly this needs to be remedied by a simple statute modeled on the European Union rule.

      • Kait:
        I am not an attorney but I’ve solicited the assistance of a retired government attorney department of justice organized crime unit, Mr. Allan Streller, in the following or the origin. The issue is falsification of records in federal investigations-Question: Who is investigating the investigators? The only person to investigate the investigators are the nation’s top law enforcement officers. On the internet you can google CRST wins $4.5. million. You can see the agency charged the truck company going to bottom of press release the Iowa Court opinion the agency did not conduct a proper investigation require by law. How did the Agency make a Charge not investigated? The Agency simply in its investigation fabriciated evidence to purport a violation that cost the taxpayers’ $4.5 dollars.
        Executive Branch agencies include the Treasury, EPA NLRB and 20+ more and this may have occured in the Swartz case. The EPA may file a violation of the Clean Air Act about your property, an exmple. Now you go to State, Federal or U.S. Supreme Court like the Sackett Case and a cost of a lot of money. This may prove a duanting and expensive undertaking. Some may be nervous or discouraged to take on the U.S. Government and simply cave in.

        What the government has not disclosed in advance a judicial review by the nation’s top laws enofrcement officer. The U.S. Attorney filed the charge based upon an investigation by Federal investigatiors.I am getting ready to mail out information to elected officials about falsification of records and apparent false statemetn on an Official Document see title 18 sec. 1519 @1001.

        The public and possibly Mr. Swartz team unaware of Federal criminal laws and Procedures. I can email additional information however the referral from an elected official to the Unitesd States Attorney Office can be mailed or faxed. Should you or your colleagues contact Mr. Streller there may be a consultation fee. I can provide an email address on request.

    • Wouldn’t be surprised if he was murdered and they made it look like a hanging. Very easy to do and much less problems down the road with an activist that made many enemys.

      • It’s “enemies” and for the record, it’s unlikely that the government would kill Aaron; it would make their unpopular case against him even more.

      • Maybe you heard about the woman in Coronado CA who supposedly hung herself naked and through herself out the window while tied to a bed with her hands tied behind her back. The corrupt police called it a suicide, but anyone with a brain knows it was not. Big money can do amazing things. AAron made too many waves and the corrupt ended him.

    • Companys do crimes everyday.. But no one tell or take action..
      More companies broke GPL license, but no one do anythingg..

      I’m from Asia, and ur US political system sucks bad.. I mean actually, this kind of things, why anyone can’t stand up against this..

      • Jason: I support the Petition a way to bring attention to the matter. However our elected officials have sworn an Oath of Office to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States. That is what we pay them to do. They are our Represenatives who are paid to protect the public from abuses by government.

        The issue is falsification of records in Federal inveatigations by Executive Branch agencies like the EPA, NLRB, Treasury and Department of Justice. This appears to all Executive Branch agencies that conduct investigations of violation of law or statutes enacted by Congress. Google Executive Branch agencies and you will see more than 20 that may falsify records. Question: How can we trust government when there is apparent falsification of records? I have a letter from an elected official that forwarded the matter of falsification of records to the investigative entity.

        Remember there are law enforcement agencies that enforce the laws or statutes and there are 2 law investigative entities. I did engage the services of a retired federal government attorney department of justice organized crime unit. If you would like a contact info let me know there may be a consult charge by the attorney.

    • Ortiz is a flunky of the digital Nazis. her only purpose was to make changing your MAC address a crime. She should be ashamed at having sold out. Really, in this day and age, if you leave your network open to everyone, you are like a prostitute who forgets to charge.

  1. I appreciate you taking the time to explain the specifics this situation during what’s a really difficult tie for everyone involved. I am sorry for your loss.

  2. Pingback: On Aaron Swartz and hacktivism | Threat Thoughts

  3. Thank you for explaining the details that you would have shared at trial. The lack of perspective on the part of the prosecution truly concerns me. It is either the result of a lack of competent intellect require to grasp the situation at-hand. Or it is the result of a malicious disregard for the truth. Either scenarios are troubling to me. It is a very sad day if the best case scenario in the U.S. judicial system is to be put on trial by a system that is either too ignorant to understand the nuances of your defence, or too willfully malicious to want to do so.

  4. Pingback: Living Memorial for Open Data Activist Aaron Swartz Dead at 26 | The International Network for Knowledge about WellbeingThe International Network for Knowledge about Wellbeing

    • What about the alledged MILLIONS in losses? You wanna know what I think?? (Sure, you really do) I think that someone held some sort of proprietary rights to all of those papers, then used some made up value to calculate the stuffed net worth of all of those student papers, and got some Savings and Loan to give them the amount with a loan secured by those papers. I bet to the tune of many many millions. Taking those papers and making copies rendered the value to zilch. So, that mythical “someone” had to claim they where robbed, to the order of millions of dollars. Follow the money. “Trust No One.”

  5. this was amazing to read. You didnt have to do this but you took the time to make your view heard by eager lears, and in this world we need more people like you defending the rights of its citizens. I commend you for this piece and wish you godspeed in your future endeavors. well said.

  6. Thanks for the analysis. Though I did not get all of the technical bits, yet, I have always intuitively thought that Aaron was being overcharged and the whole issue had gone out of hands with everyone overreacting a bit…

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  8. Reblogged this on Julia Clark and commented:
    It is very sad to lose such a brilliant mind as Aaron. In his death he becomes a martyr. Without this prosecution, precedence is not set. God have mercy on him and his. Aaron’s torch has fallen, and God willing that torch lights hundreds of other torches. .

  9. Thank you for your insight. Aaron is martyr in this long struggle against conglomerates hording as much as they can roll across.

  10. Pingback: The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime” « cartesian product

  11. You didn’t even in passing explain *why* he did it. What was his rationale? Was it for personal consumption, downloading 4 million academic articles? 4 million? It’s definitely not an offense deserving 35 years jail time (your inability to distinguish between the maximum for an offense and the likely sentence he’d have received IF found guilty is a little galling when you call yourself an expert witness — someone who’s allegedly done this frequently). But it clearly wasn’t for personal consumption. He was a great mind. Very influential and committed and honest. But you’re being outrageously disingenuous here.

    • As I explained I did not know Aaron and I cannot speak to his mindset or motivations.

      The reference of 35 years of jail time is taken directly from the US Attorney’s press release announcing the charges against Aaron: “If convicted on these charges, SWARTZ faces up to 35 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million.”

      I have updated my post to reference the US Attorney’s release.

      • I don’t think catfitz knows anything about plea bargains. At all. The prosecution was looking for a guilty plea – not “no contest”, but guilty, to all 13 counts, and was offering 6 months in Federal prison. The part that people who aren’t familiar with the process is that the court – the judge – isn’t a part of the plea deal. That’s just between the prosecutor and the defendant. I’ve had a case where we worked out a plea deal with the prosecution which gave my client no jail time and probation – and the judge turned around and gave my client six months in the county jail. So the judge in Aaron’s case could have socked hm away for 35 years hard time in the Federal penitentiary and there’s not a damned thing he could do about it – especially since in the plea deal, if it’s like all the ones I’ve seen, Aaron would have given up his right to appeal.

      • @Streamfortyseven Of course I know about plea bargains and I have observed many court cases. And this was a highly reasonable and plausible one. A guilty plea when you’re guilty and have staged an anarchist act to make a point is what you need to expect when you undertake that big — and that repetitive — a hack. This wasn’t some one-off whim; this was planned, repeated, and executed with a fake account, fake ID, and hiding of his face on the camera. He even ran away from police. So this isn’t just some frolic; it’s the “propaganda of the deed” which *you* don’t seem to have a clue about at all, eager to give leftist anarchists a pass just so your cause can succeed even if it breaks the law.

        Yes, the judge is not required to accept the offer, but in this case, there is every indication he would have or would have even dropped the case or accepted a fine after the pressure from “the professors’ letters” and the media circus. The last thing the prosecutors would have liked is a jury trial with a media circus and the cause gaining support day by day as Swartz played the victim — something he has turned out to be extremely good at, while victimizing his family with grief.

        There is absolutely no indication in hell here that any 35 years is anywhere near this case, except as a technical abstraction of “up to” if you take the maximum sentences for the charges — and we don’t know which of them or parts of them would have stuck.

        Um, please show me a computer hacker case ANYWHERE in the last 15-20 years of ANYONE “socked away for 35 years”. Sabu is out strolling around for having agreed to cooperate with the FBI. His case keeps getting postponed and I will not be surprised in the least if he gets off. Barrett Brown is finally in the slammer, but that’s only because he threatened a federal agent in a video. Even with all that, he may get himself a light sentence. That is the trend everywhere and you’d really be hard put to show any precedent for your claims, lawfarer that you are.

      • @CatherineFitzpatrick
        He hacked nothing. I quote from the article you apparently didn’t read: “Aaron did not “hack” the JSTOR website for all reasonable definitions of “hack”. Aaron wrote a handful of basic python scripts that first discovered the URLs of journal articles and then used curl to request them. Aaron did not use parameter tampering, break a CAPTCHA, or do anything more complicated than call a basic command line tool that downloads a file in the same manner as right-clicking and choosing “Save As” from your favorite browser.”

      • Not to mention that none of those “reasonable definitions of hack” are actually definitions of hack in the first place, but rather what those who don’t know the origins of the word mistakenly think it means, when “crack” comes closer to the meaning they mean.

        But if you say “hacker”, that’s almost as good at scaring the general populace as saying “terrorist”.


    • I am a random guy who is sitting in a room with several terabytes of creative commons files and some terabytes of random websites I once crawled with some simple bash scripts. Why? Because I am/was bored and it is/was fun. There is no way I could ever personally consume all of this. But why would I delete it? It was a one time cost of maybe 1000 dollars for storage. Now it is free to keep.

      • The plans to our Peacekeeper Missiles were also created with public money. Are we supposed to be making those publicly available too?

        This is a nonsense idea. Just because something is created with public funding does not mean the public has a right to access it freely. I have no idea where this concept originated, but it does not make any sense; particularly when we have a representational government which makes such decisions through acts of Congress and copyright law.

        Additionally, the work was not necessarily created exclusively with public money, where you might have a vaguely theoretical case for fair use. Indiscriminate download of millions of files is hardly that.

      • “The plans to our Peacekeeper Missiles were also created with public money. Are we supposed to be making those publicly available too?”

        Well, I guess if Aaron had a missile or two at his disposal the prosecutors might have been more careful about how they charged him. But I think that an enforceable code of ethics for federal prosecutors might have worked too.

      • People are using a very loose definition of “public money”.

        Universities are funded by students – tuition fees. They provide the content to these people, free, in return.

        JSTORT was a consortia – universities pooling their content togethor, so students get access to more.

    • On the ‘why’ he did it – he was among our brightest young hacktivists. As to the ‘why’ the Feds were disproportionately after him – I’m guessing his leadership against the SOPA/PIPA internet censorship legislation. Glenn Greenwald has a good summary with many useful links:

      Many, many thanks to you, Mr. Stamos. Your explanation will allow some of us to defend the young man against a great deal of nonsense that will no doubt roil the MSM waters…

      • To the MD post above (no link available):
        None of the information was classified or involved national security in any way. If it did it would be in NO journals. There are rules for this, and USPTO checks everything accordingly. Also, the public access effect is already happening due to the funding agencies demanding public access. The deal some entities offer (NIH potentially being first) boils down to this, if you take public money then the public will know what you did if it is publishable. While his approach was unorthodox, Aaron’s view on public access to academic literature were not radical. In fact, if the journals were not integrated into the peer review process they likely would have been done away with a long time ago.

      • This is really a reply to “theantipatriotspeaketh”
        theantipatriotspeaketh says:
        January 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm

        People are using a very loose definition of “public money”.

        Universities are funded by students – tuition fees. They provide the content to these people, free, in return.

        JSTORT was a consortia – universities pooling their content togethor, so students get access to more.

        Universities are not funded by tuition fees. When I was i school I was told that our tuition covered approximately 1/4 of the cost of educating us. The rest came from public money such as governmental grants, research projects, etc.

        This is not to mention the fact that Universities are “tax free” institutions. True, MIT does pay money to the City of Cambridge “In Lieu Of Taxes” but I believe that does not cover the true cost of all of the property that MIT Owns.

    • This is from his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto (

      “There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

      We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

      With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

      Aaron Swartz
      July 2008, Eremo, Italy”

      • Thanks for posting this. It make it rather clear that Aaron intended to distribute the files freely – i.e. to go through with the crime.

        It also makes clear that he saw this as civil disobedience. The most important factor in civil disobedience – that which gives the practice its moral force – is that one breaks an unjust law and willingly accepts the punishment demanded by the laws. That is the whole point – you take the suffering of the punishment upon yourself and then confront the society at large with the question – ” do all of you really believe that I deserve this”?

        It makes no sense whatsoever to commit the crime and then to try to avoid the punishment. That is not civil disobedience. That is just common criminality.

        Don’t get me wrong here please. I am not saying his suicide was an attempt to avoid punishment. I don’t know enough about the man to say that. But all his friends who are turning on the prosecutor are doing great disservice to Aaron if in fact he committed this crime as an act of civil disobedience. The prosecutor was simply playing his assigned role in the matter. In fact, if he did not prosecute, then there would be no real civil disobedience, and no opportunity to make the case to the society at large that the laws needed to be changed.

      • There’s something in the Constitution about this: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” It’s the Eighth Amendment in the Bill of Rights. Lately the government has been doing remarkable violence to the Bill of Rights, not only the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, but also the First and Second Amendments as well, so it’s no surprise that the Eighth is on the chopping block as well.

        There are good reasons that countries become less free and turn into police states, and one of them is that people don’t fight governmental injustice, and won’t try to hold governments accountable when they won’t follow their own rules. Now, is 50 years in prison – hard time, a potential life sentence, he’d have been 76 when he walked out – and a $1 million fine – cruel and unusual punishment for copyright infringement? If you don’t really think so, then we don’t have much to talk about here.

      • As Martin-Niemöller said:

        First they came for the communists,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
        Then they came for the socialists,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
        Then they came for the trade unionists,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
        Then they came for me,
        and there was no one left to speak for me.

      • That particular quote could be construed by some as equating Aaron with Holocaust victims (who had neither constitutional rights nor access to effective legal counsel), and the Feds to you-know-who, and risks Godwin’ing the thread.


      • StreamFortySeven: Wait Wait .. So, you’re seriously quoting a )(*&@)$* pastebin post ?? Are you completely insane ??

        Do you have *any* idea, at *all*, what pastebin is even for ?? It’s for *anonymously* posting information! I could crap out a post on pastebin and claim it was from God himself! Why the ()*&@($ is this even remotely relevant to ANYONE, much less this debate ??

        Here’s a pastebin, I just happened to find, from Grumpy Cat:

        It couldn’t possibly have been written by anyone but Grumpy Cat himself right ?? I mean, clearly, his intentions are to end his parents lives should they keep him under lock and key, and escape to the circus to have comfy makeouts with all the other deformed kitties. Because, well, he’s feeling depressed. ;( Awww.

        I mean, it’s even signed by Grumpy Cat !

        Who else could it have been but him !?!?

        I’m not going to pull any punches here: This is absolutely disgusting.

        New rule in debate ladies and gentleman: Quoting Wikipedia, or Pastebin, is equivalent to Godwin’s Law, and everyone else in the discussion wins by default.

      • SteamFortySeven: Thanks for the PDF Link, which is at least a modicum step up from Pastebin. Researching the links that the Wiki article is based on (Yes, I am using Wikipedia, but not as a direct source itself, rather as a launch point for further investigation) it would appear that he also already had direct access to JSTOR via his Harvard Fellow credentials, making the issue a matter of location, not actual breach of the Terms of Service.

        I’m going to quote directly from JSTOR’s Terms of use page (

        “researchers affiliated and/or visiting under the terms of an agreement with the Institutional Licensee”

        A Harvard Fellow, who is considered a researcher (he was), fulfills this TOS limitation, as long as it’s on Harvard’s site. Ok. Fine. He broke the location of the TOS by downloading from MIT, and not Harvard. That still doesn’t make it theft. He still had access, even if it wasn’t on the site in which the TOS explicitly lays out which is the reason that JSTOR didn’t charge him for the “crime”, and not only that their internal initiatives are already on the way towards that model!

        You know, researching this whole thing, it irritates me that the people who write the articles don’t get paid, yet the companies who release this information, in this case JSTOR, make ridiculous amounts of money off papers that they themselves did nothing to produce. Sounds to me like they’re leeching off of people. In other words: It sounds far more like theft, than Aaron’s actions ever will.

        I quote (
        ” But I get paid nothing directly for the most difficult, time-consuming writing I do: peer-reviewed academic articles. In fact a journal that owned the copyright to one of my articles made me pay $400 for permission to reprint my own writing in a book of my essays.”

        So, somehow, the journal can take copyright from the Author ?? Does anyone else see a problem with this, or am I just drinking crazy making kool aid here ?? The author himself, has to turn around and *pay* someone else to use his own material elsewhere ?? This isn’t a matter of copyright now, this is a matter of what corporations are allowed to do with data. This is, in my humble opinion, not only completely backwards, but wrong.

        Of course, it’s to say nothing of the fact that the great majority of people who go to institutions with access, can even use that access:

        This is an opinion piece, so I’m not sure that I could classify it as quality source material per se. The only real way to research it is to contact a library at an institution that does have JSTOR access, and ask for a login to view some of their material.

        Look, I’m not trying to say that a person is above reproach if the spirit of the action is in my opinion deemed worthy of praise. That said there are no moral absolutes in this world, regardless of how people would like to paint it that way. The issue then comes down to harm or aggression: If the company who experienced the “attack”, which it wasn’t, was harmed in some way and was pressing charges for the incident, then maybe there would be a leg for those who view it as a crime to stand on. In this case, it’s not like that. So, where’s the crime again, other than the publishing companies themselves, and the way they treat the author’s who publish information in the first place ??

    • I have a copy of the Wikipedia dump file, essentially a copy of Wikipedia. It’s about 40Gb of text, uncompressed. It’s unlikely I’ll be able to read it all in my lifetime. I keep it on my PDA with a search tool because not knowing what I will want to look up in future doesn’t mean that I never will. Having an offline copy means I can access it while anywhere, with or without web connection and without outside monitoring of my habits. I have the closest single thing to the sum of all human knowledge in my pocket, on a memory card the size of a fingernail. It is both humbling and amazingly useful.
      An offline copy of these 4 million articles similarly tied to a simple desktop search tool sounds a similarly useful aid to research and understanding.
      Please do not assume because you do not have a use for a thing, that no one does.

      • To Joe Citizen: “That is the whole point – you take the suffering of the punishment upon yourself and then confront the society at large with the question – ” do all of you really believe that I deserve this”? It makes no sense whatsoever to commit the crime and then to try to avoid the punishment.”

        If you confront the society with that question you’re trying to avoid the punishment. So, you’re contradicting yourself in two sentences and don’t make any sense. Very bad trolling.

      • Excellent point. Not to mention that as search engines and AI gets better, this much information can be pre-indexed to decrease search times and the “distance” to any given piece of information available – like keeping a “pocket dictionary” or as you put it “pocket wikipedia” around with you wherever you go!

    • Good questiion, but you think (four million) files are large? Downloading just Ten Terabytes could hold the entire Library of Congress! Less than one Terabyte is all he used to download 4 million open journals and currently it can fit into a flash drive the size of a key chain recently advertised on the news.

      These files are nothing more than digital ones and zeros condensed into a small space that can be downloaded into a very small space. So looking at it in that perspective, 35 years for open information is extreme.

      It sounds to me that the attorney general is overreacting due to our terrorist scare since 9/11 combined with his age, I’m guessing he’s also moderately technologically illiterate. The kind of guy who comes home to see his grandkid navigating an I-pad at age four, much faster than he can use his television clicker to watch a football game.

      • mylunchbreak: Notes on the Swartz matter: if convicted on the charges. You may not understand Federal criminal law and Procedures. I am not an attorney but I retained a retired government attoreny Department of Justice Organized Crime Unit knowledgeable in Criminal laws and Procedures. What apears if convicted suggests falsification of evidence in Federal investigation, a few more items may be listed. I have a letter from the DOJ FBI Field Office directing a matter to a Regional U.S. Attorney to justify a Federal criminal investigation.
        One of the issues is falsification of records in Federal investigaiton I can fax or snail mail the documents however a former federal proscuter or will provide my attorney contact can discuss falsification or records title 18 sec. 1519 and how it may apply to every case by federal investigators and the use of an apparent false statement on an Official Document title 18 sec. 1001. The only way to seek fair and impartial administration of justice is directing information to an elected official. Falsification of records in Federal investigations is all investigations not a single case. Richard

    • Court is where people go to have both sides of an argument weighed and measured. Everyone is supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law. Our system today is more like Constantinople’s Grand Bazaar where the prosecution purposefully loads the charges with everything possible because they *know* they can only get a percentage of the charges to stick. The more charges, the better the negotiating later. It’s as if you want my half eaten waffle and I start our haggling at $100. I knew you will never pay that much for half eaten food, but if I start high, I have a better chance of ending high.

      There is an argument to be made that judges should be the final arbiters of justice. But when one or both sides start from such skewed perspectives, the odds of true justice happening in our overtaxed system are, I suspect, significantly lowered.

      • Brian: I left a reply to Kait on the issue of falsification of records in Federal investigation. There are Petitions that may be signed but the real power is in the hands of our elected officials. Our elected officials swore an Oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States and ensure the taxpayers’ money is spent on the business of the people. Congress was created to protect the public from government abuses. Question: Was there falsification of records in the Swartz case? There are other cases where apparnet falsification of records are found. This si a simple matter to direct a two sentence letter to your Congressman and or Senator to forward the inofrmation to the Regional Unites States Attorney for comment. Read the 1/27/ to Kait. Richard

    • HQ..
      Say one of your favorite artists are giving out their latest album free of charge on the web. You have a vacation to go to, not much time to sample all the songs, so what do you do? You download all the songs and keep them for listening to later. Hey, the ones you don’t like can always be deleted later by you. This guy wrote code to download whole directories of articles. It’s like he programmed his own download manager. He would have again written a program to search and scrutinize the topic(s) he was interested in. MIT itself has never barred anybody from downloading articles. I think the legal office just couldn’t digest the fact that some whizkid got a majority of the articles in his possession and saw this case as a stepping stone to a great career if Aaron had got convicted.
      Thanks Alex for the clarifications. May Aaron’s soul rest in peace!

    • To MD: it is sad that some people like yourself still have absolutely no idea what diffusion of knowledge is about and think about everything only in terms of money. That denotes a low, low mind.
      This is about SCIENCE, not missiles, so it is PUBLIC, do you understand the difference ? Science is about discovery of new knowledge and the FREE diffusion of it to the public. Yes free as in free beer. Scientists do not seek of making money out of the knowledge they share in their articles, they are usually not money driven. This has been the case for centuries, there is no reason this should change, unless you want to slow down innovation to a crawl. Even privately funded science is freely diffused. Without the Bell labs, there would be no laser, no transistor, hence no digital electronics, etc.
      Aaron Swartz wanted to keep public knowledge in the hands of the public, and not limited to the few institutions that can pay insane amounts of money to JSTOR and publishers to access it.

    • It’s irrelevant if the sentence that would have been given is not near the maximum sentence (that the prosecutor was in any case bandying around) – for a “crime” like this the maximum sentence should be a fine, perhaps some community service and a misdemeanor charge. That there is a maximum sentence that is so disproportionate for this is utterly barbaric, especially when it is publically brandished by the prosecutor to browbeat the defendant.

      This kind of disproportionate maximum sentence was bandied around in the extradition case of Gary McKinnon (which thankfully the British government finally had the sense to block) – if McKinnon were to be tried in his home country it’s doubtful the maximum possible sentence would be custodial.

    • What? It seems like there are is a significant minority who take the (flawed) perspective that the prosecutor was just “playing her part” or doing what “she was supposed to do under the law” by prosecuting his act this way. It’s sad that anyone might think that any laws are written in such a way that there is no demand for the use of careful discretion by prosecutors and judges when interpreting the statues appropriately, ethically, and fairly. By dividing up what was at most one illegal action into several alleged felony offenses and further stretching and/or interpreting the law in such a way she did in order to threaten 30+ years in jail – and this isn’t an episode of law and order, she was not kidding or plea bargaining here it seems – for what was by any reasonable standard of interpretation a misdemeanor, literally, the prosecutor clearly abused her office for apparently political ends, and possibly, because of a grudge against Aaron.

      I’m neither a lawyer nor a great writer (nor even an American) but I know enough to know that there is always, or almost always, a level of discretion inherent in the job of a prosecutor having to decide which laws and statues best fit the act, and while there may be no legal requirement to enforce the laws consistently from case to case (as there is for the court when choosing sentences, for instance) it seems clear there is an ethical requirement for the government to not arbitrarily stretch every definition and target one person in the manner in which it was applied here if it is not (and it isn’t) done in every other case, and maybe you could update your article to make more clear that this wasn’t a case of mandatory minimums, for example, but targeted, malicous, persecution by an actively campaigning politician. It seems like Aaron’s memory deserves this, and I I found suprisingly little in the five articles online about this tragedy, but I lack the U.S legal knowledge or the detailed familiarity with the case to better explain in detail what happened here, and why it was highly unusual and a huge legal stretch as far as I can see, to put it mildly. For those who think the U.S. attorney was just ‘doing her job’ or that Aaron ‘should have expected to pay the penalty’, I’d like to see someone tell the story of why this prosecution had nothing to do with the crime committed, and why all voters in MA should know about what happened and what this woman did to Aaron.

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  16. Really good post. I had no idea who Aaron was until I learned he had died today. He seemed like a very intelligent person. RIP.

    • Also, I hope the students and staff at MIT protest and demand the resignation of the MIT administrators.

      • I also hope that no prospective student of sense will try to study at this university, which once was legendary and the most open in the world. Now they have blood on their hands.

    • Unfortunately these thugs enjoy absolute immunity. Nifong only got a day in jail, suspended. This tells you everything you need to know about our system of “Just Us”.

      • Contrary to the “equal protection of the laws” intended by the Civil
        Rights Act of 1871, there is not equal protection. Government attorneys can and do lie to deprive citizens of intended protections without the government attorneys having consequences for their lies. Government attorneys have immunity from lying in court by an archaic tradition going back to the courts in England. To correct injuries caused by “actions at law” the Civil Rights Act was enacted on April 20, 1871. It has been amended and codified as Title 42 U. S. C. § 1983.

  17. Pingback: The internet reacts to Aaron Swartz death « OnTechies

  18. Since the federal prosecutor obviously engaged in this massive prosecutorial overreach to further his own career, it seems only fair that career reap its just reward.

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    • “What’s next, claiming that AdBlock is inspecting and subverting Internet traffic, and hence a crime under the Wiretap Act?” Well, content distributors certainly think so!
      “Any time you skip a commercial, you’re actually stealing the programming.” Jamie Kelleher CEO, Turner Broadcasting

      • I have this vision of armed guards standing over Kelleher forcing him to read every advertisement in any magazine or newspaper on which he ever lays eyeballs.


    • Nate Wiger,
      I agree, it is a total misnomer to refer to it as “hacking”. Everyone can access to essentially the same thing via a browser plug-in; common tools to do it. They purposefully didn’t put any obstacles in place to try to discourage people from engaging in downloading. If they put up ropes at the cinema to try to discourage people from cutting in line in a queue, it wouldn’t be to step outside, underneath or over the ropes. As has been pointed out, his downloads, at the highest, caused disruption and inconvenience, and are NOT HACKING. It ALSO falls short even of trespass to their server, something which ebay accused MercExchange of doing. The Court held that it was possible for MercExchange to trespass on ebay’s server under tort law, drawing on ancient legal doctrine, for trawling their auction listings. It is simple. They made these available to the public without caveat. They did this by design; on purpose. In terms of copyright, where are all those people who advocate that contract trumps copyright?

  21. Pingback: Open Access advocate Aaron Swartz dead at 26 | Secular Trends

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  23. This wise contribution is greatly appreciated. I cannot but see the aggressive drive to convict this young man as little more than bullying designed to ‘set an example’. There is a rot at the heart of the ‘official’ system but it is for you Americans to sort it out. As for this Brit, he can only express truly heartfelt condolences to the family … the loss of such an exceptionally bright young man is something our global culture cannot afford, though perhaps we could do with a few less ambitious corporate types lacking any basic moral compass.

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  25. I disagree with you, Alex: I think you’re extraordinarily eloquent here. Not to take anything away from Lessig, but I think your dispassionate marshaling of the evidence is much more damning than any amount of rhetoric could be. This whole thing makes me so cryingly, crazy-makingly mad.

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  28. It’s really sad and scary to look at how careerists & bureaucracy have wasted both time and tones of tax payers money to ruin someone’s life, and for no reason. And not just anyone’s, but a life of a young, extremely smart and multi-talented person like Aaron. It’s nothing less than a real tragedy and I can only hope that someone, eventually, will answer for all this craziness…

  29. May he rest in peace though his decent soul is indestructible, and Aaron will still work from the other side.

  30. The prosecutor in this case has a name: Stephen Heymann. That name should be out there. Why do so many of the articles I have read today refer to him anonymously as ‘the federal prosecutor?’ I understand this guy may even have political ambitions in Massachusetts. His role in this should have consequences.

  31. There is something self-serving about laying blame for Aaron’s suicide, or any suicide. It allows one to siphon off some of the terrible emotions that ensue afterwards. (And in this case there are people and institutions outside of Aaron that make good targets.) It also diminishes the dead person by assuming he or she was incapable of facing the problems or people confronting them. Does anyone who knew Aaron really believe he was defeated by the government? That he threw up his hands and showed the world they had won? Do you think he wanted to martyr himself?

    This brilliant man no doubt knew how futile that would be. I believe whatever terrors the acts of the government or MIT or any other earthly things presented to Aaron, they were of little consequence compared to the unfathomable pain inflicted on him by his own brain chemistry. An even greater mystery is the nature of the chains binding him, preventing him from seeking whatever means in existence that could help him stay on earth.

    We must learn more about depression, take more seriously its manifestations in our loved ones, and stand guard around them, inside their perimeters and their circle, to leave ourselves entirely open to their need and desire for assistance, support, whatever it takes. Maybe we’ll do better next time. Perhaps there’s someone you know right now…

    Thanks for a comment system that protects my privacy.

    • Even if acquitted it costs around 1.5million US dollars to defend yourself against the feds. Money you dont get back. Depression yes, of course is a factor, a great one, but the pressure of this case was also unfair and disproportionate. It certainly not gonna make things easier for those already depressed. I agree with your sentiment on depression but lets not ignore the systematic injustice of our legal system. The DOJ and White House need to stop these kinds of witch hunts against those who are working for social change

      • Even assuming he racked up anything like the bill you predict – which I doubt since he had no money and was smart enough to arrange for legal aid – I just don’t think mere money trouble would bring him to the despair he finally succumbed to. He was a much bigger person than any of the people trying to make his life difficult. He seemed moved by far more important issues than the pestering he suffered at the hands of the legal system. It’s been demonstrated here they didn’t have much of a case against him, and I doubt seriously he would have spent time in jail. Ask yourself if YOU would have been brought to your knees by a situation such as his.

    • Speaking as the brother of a woman who attempted suicide twice, I can say that even I do not know what depression does to a person, to their mind. But I understand it’s power.

      When my sister was first diagnosed, the parents my mother was friends with suggested that my mother take my sister through the cancer ward of a hospital, to make her see what ‘real’ suffering was like.

      Put there is no suffering greater than depression, no opponent more potent that your own brain. Taking her through a cancer ward would have destroyed her, because she would have felt guilt over it, driven her ever further and ever faster to her attempt suicide.

      The public does not need to know, for it cannot know, there is no metaphor or simile to describe it. But it needs to UNDERSTAND.

      And couple depression, and all it’s crushing sickness and disorder, coupled with a (according to what I have read thus-far) VINDICTIVE WITCH-HUNTING TROLLOP of a prosecutor who seems to have taken the case purely in order to further his own political ambitions (perhaps as a bid for old-media donations) I cannot say I am surprised that this was the way it ended. I am saddened immeasurably, not I cannot say I am surprised.

      • @Casey Once you see a legal document that states “US Government Vs. YOUR NAME HERE” it will change you in a fundamental way. I say this from personal experience. It is profound. It is one thing to think about power in an abstract way. But once you, your family, your family’s finances are in serious jeopardy because THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT wants to prosecute you, things will never be the same. Do not dismiss the psychological effect of this. It will stay with you. It will fuck with you. Forever.

      • Jonathan, I hear you so clearly. You do have a grasp of the horror at the heart of depression. It seems you have to be very close to a sufferer or have experienced it yourself to understand how terrifying it is. Your story about the condescending and ignorant advice your mother received from her “friends” demonstrates well the need for more and better information about it among the population. While we humans remaining here on earth continue to flail away at a not-quite-perfect judicial system, using Aaron’s insights to bring it to a more humane and useful condition, I hope our medical and psychiatric professionals, along with their patients and their families and loved ones, can help us focus on this disease to find better treatments and ways to intervene before we lose any more of our best and brightest to it.

    • Casey, if your government is after you, surrounding you, stifling you, threatening you, it is less about defeat, and more about the despair of being one small person. You have your dad, your family, a few lawyers, and people like Alex on your side, and you know they love and care about you, but you also know that you alone could go to prison. To battle depression under these conditions would be unfathomable.

      Aaron was only 26 years old. Brilliant, worldly, innocent, and in the end, alone, with the knowledge that his government, the United States government, the government of freedom and fairness, was against him. We lost a crusader.

      • Sorry, CaptFuzz and Dianne. I think anyone baffled and intimidated by the gov’t does not understand democracy. This thread is full of opinions about how weak this case was, and people in the know are sure he would not have spent any time in prison. Despite the futility of blaming the feds for Aaron’s suicide, this discussion is valuable for exposing this case and demonstrating how Aaron targeted the vulnerable interfaces between information/technology/commerce. Many more people have thought about it now, and perhaps we can continue being involved and make more intelligent decisions about how to build an information sharing system that benefits the most at the least cost.

        In the meantime, we should try to understand the monster that did kill Aaron, a merciless, profound depression, and start treating it like the menace it is so that we don’t lose more of our greatest talent to it. It’s tragic that more people are not concerned with this aspect of Aaron’s loss. There’s an awful lot of drama in the political arguments made about it all over the internet, but the important event here is the death of a brilliant, beautiful man who would have continued to make the world better if he had lived on. Perhaps, as with the Newtown massacre, it will take the loss of a beloved person, far better known than Aaron Swartz, to bring us to attention about this disease. It is too easily written off as not serious and even a behavior problem, not a disease, limited to only certain kinds of people – weak people, easily treated with drugs, and so on. I wonder if this misunderstanding of depression contributed to Aaron’s despair. No one could understand what was happening to him. If so, then we are all to blame.

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  38. Thank you so much for putting this information on the record so to speak.

    I have to believe that Swartz knew how much support he had from the hacker community. I had corresponded with him a number of years ago(could it really be back in 2000?) about programming for online communities, and when I heard of his difficulties in July 2011 I sent him a note offering whatever help I could. He responded with his thanks, but I didn’t hear from him again; I assumed he was in good hands, but now of course I can’t help but ask myself if there was something further I should have done. No doubt many others ask themselves the same question.

    I am angry at what I regard as clear abuse of power by the government prosecutors. If any positive change can come out of this, I want to see some of the responsible parties punished. Someone in the government needs to lose their job over how this case was handled. The kid-glove treatment of special interests (e.g., entertainment industry, banking) reeks particularly badly when compared with the malicious overkill of this case against someone who meant and did no harm to anyone.

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  42. Reblogged this on Duffboy and commented:
    I was unaware of Aaron Swartz’s case or recent death. This post is very humbling in many ways and should make us feel collectively ashamed for cornering someone into such despair.

  43. The Australian government accused me of hacking into their systems to steal confidential information, even though they could not find my electronic fingerprints anywhere near the data. The accusation/threats were in the time frame where I was adapting to the fall out of being a whistle-blower, I was getting Satanic death threats from the so-called-victim-of my alleged ‘dabbling’ and while all protective equipment for my job was withdrawn or decommissioned, making death by homicide or suicide a likely outcome for me. It seems as if the same tactics were used on this poor chap.

    I’ve known two to suicide after one being caught with a bit of weed and the police threatened one with the rest of her life in prison.

  44. i tend to agree that it was a case of hounding and judicial overreach based on his successful campaigning against SOPA/PIPA, and his philosophy around creative commons, social justice, and equitable access to academic information created and funded by the Government but available at obscene rates to the wealthy few. Perhaps he would have been better off being your average porkbarrelling white collar criminal and the DOJ wouldn’t be on his back

  45. i tend to agree that it was a case of hounding and prosecutorial overreach based on his successful campaigning against SOPA/PIPA, and his philosophy around creative commons, social justice, and equitable access to academic information created and funded by the Government but available at obscene rates to the wealthy few. Perhaps he would have been better off being your average porkbarrelling white collar criminal and the DOJ wouldn’t be on his back

  46. Aaron Swartz was a dick whose selfish acts for an admirable cause shutdown JSTOR access to all MIT students for the time it took MIT sysadmins to pull the plug on his inelegant hack. A sensible prosecutor would have pled him out with a token sentence and financial restitution for MIT’s time and materials. The US prosecutor overreached and should be fired.

    • The “selfish act” is the one that you don’t talk about: the privatization of research paid for with taxpayer money. That’s *my* money. If government stops funding scientific research, then you might be justified, but right now, you’re stealing my money to benefit yourself. Screw MIT students. If we pay for it, we get the benefits of it.

  47. Pingback: Aaron Swartz: Persecuted Genius | Echoes of Eternity

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  49. You probably already know this, but the reason prosecutors push such heavy charges is as leverage for a plea bargain. Yes it’s a problem, but by no means limited to these kinds of cases.

  50. What the duck said. There is plenty of blame to go around here. Overreaching prosecutors ….sure. But if you want to play the civil disobedience game then you have to be prepared to pay the price… and you don’t get to set the price, the Man does. That’s the world we live in and he shoulda known that. And this was a boy whose mental stability was known to be a bit on the shaky side, apparently. Someone who might not have held up that well in prison even for a short sentence. So he (and whoever of his friends and family who knew of his plans in advance) should have thought twice before embarking on this path. His cause may have been just but it seems like he wasn’t the man for this job.

    There will never be a trial now to determine his guilt under the law, but Alex’s opinion notwithstanding, downloading 5 million copyrighted documents that you don’t own from a university that you don’t attend with the intention of making them public is more than just rude, it’s a crime. That the university, in the interest of making the network as useful as possible to students, didn’t have elaborate security (thanks to Aaron, I’ll bet the security is now tougher and more inconvenient) is irrelevant. If Alex doesn’t have seven deadbolt locks on the door to his house, is it OK to come steal all his stuff? To a federal prosecutor who has trouble getting her email program setup, python scripts and curl sound techie enough to constitute “hacking”.

    Would Aaron have really been sentenced to 35 years in jail? No way. But that’s how the game (which as I said before, Aaron knowingly chose to play) is played – the prosecutor wildly overcharges you, your experts claim that you haven’t committed any crime at all and you end up somewhere in between. The Feds usual goal is to get you to plead guilty to some lesser offense. Apparently Aaron refused to plead guilty to ANY felony and so the Feds pressed on with their case. This goes on every day of the week in every state and the defendants don’t kill themselves.

    • Everything you wrote here lets the prosecution off the hook. It’s apparently not their fault this confused kid just didn’t realize they didn’t REALLY want to send him to prison for 35 years. They were just sayin’ that, for, you know, strategy and stuff. Oops, he went and killed himself before we could tell him it was just ‘a game.’
      “He shoulda known that” – You can say that about most victims.

      • That is a ridiculous argument. Is there a sentient being alive in this country who doesn’t understand that prosecutors overcharge in order to leverage a plea bargain so that they can resolve a case without the expense of a trial? If this supposed genus kid didn’t understand that, then he certainly had dozens if not hundreds of friends and lawyers too who no doubt explained it all to him.

      • Don’t try to imply that without a plea bargain the prosecution would have reduced the charges. They absolutely would have pushed for the entire 35+ years without hesitation. It’s tantamount to torturing someone to extract a confession. Just because it’s often done doesn’t make it any less evil.

    • What is the legal status of that? If you have a copyrighted work, and stapled it to all the telephone poles in the neighbourhood, is that hacking? There is implied permission for him to access it. Nobody “broke” into ‘the house’ to use your analogy, they left the goods out on the sidewalk, unsecured, and intended that people on the campus not retransmit it to other people off the campus but there was no fair use policy (in the discovery documents).

    • The fact that this is common practice doesn’t make it just or ethical. To force innocent people to plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit – which is common – is a miscarriage of justice; to force people guilty of a minor crime – which should be a civil matter between MIT, JSTOR, and Aaron – into a guilty plea for a major crime is also a gross miscarriage of justice. To do the latter when the defendant is known to suffer from major depressive disorder is unspeakably evil – especially considering that the prosecution which had originally charged him with four felonies in 2011 upped the number to 13 in September 2012. In short, they hounded and bullied him to death and they damned well knew what they were doing.

      Your comment is outrageous. There’s a reason that the US is turning into a police state and you’re part of it.

    • there is a number of outreagously wrong things in your comment.
      First, browsing the web, even automatically, is not a “crime” : raping, killing are crimes ; browsing is not.
      Second, your definition of stealing is somewhat doubtful. When you steal something, the other party doesn’t have it anymore. In this sense, Aaron hasn’t stolen anything : JSTOR still have the documents. If I copy your first sentence “What the duck said. There is plenty of blame to go around here”, I didn’t steal from you and I shall not be prosecuted for that.
      Third, noone should go in jail from intention, and your supposed “intention to broadcast all the documents” is just that : did he or did he not broadcast the documents? Point. I often “have the intention to kill a little bastard who is saying bad things” : do I do it ? no. That’s all that needs to be known.
      Fourth, the fact that he attends the university or the documents are copyrighted is not a fraud. The network is open access for good reasons, and if he plans to keep these documents for personal use or no use at all, then copyright is overruled by “fair use”. Being a researcher, I can state that these copyrights are largely unethical either : the research is done by researchers with public money, articles are written by researchers with public money, peer reviewed is done by other researchers with public money and just optionnally, careerwise, researchers commonly use journals that claims for the copyright of these documents (why should they claim for the copyright?). Ethically, there are many wrong things in paying portals such as JSTOR which makes his “offense” largely not a “crime” like you say.
      Finally, about the fact that “he wasn’t the man” : would *you* have been the man to do it ? Did *you* do it ? If not to any of these questions, then he was just right to do his actions, and encourage the large dissemination of culture and publicly paid research (if it was his goal to release the documents at all). His work on creative common is largely in this direction and should be encouraged. It’s easy to say “he wasn’t the man” and do nothing about it.

      • Nick,
        A lot of people are not only devining his intention but they seem to then further want to punish these thought crimes they are imputing to Aaron. Mens rea and actus reus. You have to have both. As you point out browsing isn’t a crime, the network was open and there is a lot of moral judgement being splashed around as to what is manly based on ignorance and arrogance.

      • He didn’t “browse” Nick. Read the indictment, read his guerilla manifesto, and read the name of the hacker script he wrote:

        You don’t name something “” if you are just “browsing”.

        This isn’t about “intention”; it’s about *deed*. It was an accomplished fact that Swarz “liberated” 4 million documents using a script deliberately designed to attack the system to access it in ways not intended. That *is* hacking and hacking *is* a crime.

        Your notion that there is some civil disobedience justified here against some “evil” system is ludicrous given that it was a system he could access for free as a student, and JSTOR is a nonprofit making documents available to university as a service.

    • @Jack Dee
      – very well said.
      – and for the others calling him ‘a confused kid’, no he wasn’t. he knew exactly what he was doing. and he snuck around to do it. a laptop in a closet? really? just like in the movies.
      – he’d done something like this before and gotten away with not being prosecuted so he failed to learn his lesson about potential consequences
      – was he overcharge this time around? yes.

    • Yes, I’m glad you and Joe Citizen are accentuating this aspect of the story. So often the young hipsters today don’t really want to do civil disobedience — which means non-violence and going limp and accepting the arrest at the end of your sit-in — they want to do anarchic direct action and then pretend that they did civil disobedience but that it’s wrong to punish them.

      It’s really a terribly disingenuous if not sinister hustle and I call it out again and again, whether with Occupy Wall Street or WikiLeaks. Do the crime? Do the time.

      It really is a crime to steal 4 million documents *to make a propagandistic point in the service of a coercive, anarchic belief system*. It’s not just “taking out too many library books”. It’s not just “accessing unrestricted files” as the script kiddies keep claiming on Twitter on all the Anonymous persona accounts.

      It’s about anarchic assault on the rule of law and creating an authoritarian system where the Internet can only be used in the way that unscrupulous hackers believe it should be used — and no one has the *choice* to have walled gardens or paid content walls — they have to be forcibly collectivized.

      There is no 35 years. There was a plea bargain offered of 6 months. 6 months! This is reported now today. And the defense wouldn’t accept it.

      • You’re a piece of work, I have to say. I had to pick which of your comments to respond to and have decided this one: your every argument is based not so much on a point of view, but instead a personal attack– anyone who who thinks an injustice was done here is “self-interested”, at least.

        We’re self-interested, hipsters (e.g. ignorant and following a fad), script kiddies (e.g., guilty of similar stuff so refusing to acknowledge other guilt). Sorry, no.

        Sorry, no. Your attempt to make irrelevant all argument against your totalitarian and utterly absurd view by classing us as some biased and thus irrational and thus irrelevant position is wrong.

        I am a professional programmer, I make my living off of writing proprietary software, and I rely on the protections of copyright law to ensure my livelihood.

        Aaron was an activist, and I don’t know for sure how far he’d take things: it is in my self-interest to support copyright law, and I do, so if he advocated for a complete abolishment of copyright I would oppose him. Then again: so would the Free Software Foundation, because the very basis of their engine of “Freedom” — the GPL — is based upon copyright law..

        There is a conversation to be had here, about access to information, freedom of publicly funded information, freedom of academic research, freedom of knowledge. Aaron clearly had a certain point of view on this conversation, and I think he and I would not agree entirely– but I get where he’s coming from in many places.

        One of his previous campaigns revolved around PACER, and that resonated very well with me: the idea that the law itself could be withheld from the People is, in my opinion, a complete and utter violation of our basic freedom. All those nuances of court cases *are law*, and for the least of us to be denied access to our law but subject to it is fundamentally, utterly, wrong. It goes against the very nature of a free society.

        This issue is fuzzier; academic research is fuzzier. A great deal of it is paid for at least partially via public funding, and I completely support movements by the NIH and other government organizations to require the research they fund to be made freely available. That my taxes pay for the research means I should have access to it, period. I get that, I am sympathetic to that point of view.

        That said: JSTOR does provide a useful service. They are not the copyright holders, but their service is useful, and they seem to have responded to this situation reasonably.

        I’m not against private research, I’m not against patents (though I question deeply if “business method” and software patents are justifiable). I’m not anti-capitalism, anti-commercialization of knowledge. If a company puts their money into some discovery they deserve to reap the benefits: I congratulate them.

        This issue is not so clear cut. Considering MIT’s own policies and treatment of their network, its very hard to see that Aaron hacked it: considering the agreement between JSTOR and MIT about access, its very hard to see that Aaron violated the letter of what was allowed.

        That said, I do think he committed a wrongdoing, which may have raised to the level of a crime. The question is: what, and how much?

        The prosecution demanded he plead guilty to a felony: while it may be true (I have not seen this from a reputable source) that the time he would have to serve was only 6 months, it is utterly and shockingly dishonest for you to handwave that as “merely 6 months”.

        To plead guilty to a felony is a lifetime conviction.

        It is a lifetime deprived of basic, fundamental rights: it is a lifetime where you can’t vote, can’t serve in a jury, where discrimination against you is *legal*. It is a lifetime as a second class citizen.

        Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, your right to vote, to participate, to have a job, to be equal to your fellows, that you think its nothing that you are deprived of this all for your life — so maybe to you, “only” six months is something. But being a felon is a *huge* burden that goes far, far, far beyond the time in prison (where there is a significant risk of violence and rape).

        What is a felony? It is a crime of ‘high seriousness’. Exactly how you may define that might vary, but come on.

        If, with a straight face and clear heart, you can tell me that a felony should include a crime where the victim itself says they should not be prosecuted — then I question your basic humanity.

        I, at least, am not outraged that he has been charged with a crime. I think, legitimately, he did something criminal here. But. There is a massive difference between a criminal act deserving reasonable punishment and utterly incomprehensible overreach by the part of the prosecution to destroy a person.

        I am outraged that the Government abused their discretion beyond all reasonable terms — not to prosecute at all, but to prosecute to the level they did.

        Aaron may have done wrong, but what he did had no victims, and threatening him with felonies and massive years in jail to get him to break, was beyond unjust.

        It was evil.

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  53. I’m curious as to how the statement “This loophole was created intentionally by MIT and JSTOR” can be true if, after the discovery of the actions, steps were taken to prevent this action from happening again? Seems to me that the design falls more under “unintended consequences” than “intentional”.

    Thank you for all the clarifications and the post – very informative.

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  55. The technical is not important. The intent is what matters and it is what matters in court. Computer people must learn to understand that your intent is often more important than your technique or method.

    • well yeah if you only limit the discussion to what’s presently the tone of society relative to computers then yeah that’s the truth. you could say the same thing then about the literally million people now in jail for drugs. since Nixon was in office there has been a tenfold (X10) increase in # imprisoned in the US though. in the past decades there have been events occurring like mandatory minimums for crack cocaine possession etc.
      it’s not just all about the technicalities of computers. the whole point of the internet, as i took it when it took off in the 90s, was about the ability to disseminate on a whole new level information, not to control it just for profits’ sake. of course, money became the name of the game rather quickly. and it’s been a battle ever since. control of identity, editorial, censorship; openess vs. hiddeness. big business has a large part to play in that battle. they have a lot to hide.

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  60. We live in a society that lets O.J. Simpson go free and hangs a young student for downloading too many free PDFs.

      • oh my God. when i used to work “in industry”, we used to make fun of the “lead people” who in their efforts to “rise above”, would sell out and take these actual courses the corp paid for, i used to see them on the printer sometimes, it was unbelieveable, “How to deal with the disgruntled worker…” etc. I mean i can see the need for such classes, were it not for the fact that everyone working there had already proven and reproven their company loyalty over and reover. They would tell you that “Oh they like the way you’re dressed today!,” to which we would respond “Say anything, Carol!” To their face, and they had no idea what you were talking about. But, in the spirit of that preface, your comments would definitely receive a “Very concerned!!”

  61. Reblogged this on TecHunger and commented:
    I was ‘affected’ from inside, after reading this article on why Aaron Swartz didn’t commit a crime serious enough, that would have kept him in jail for 35 years.. :/ leave serious crime, it was never a crime, considering MIT’s rules and regulations on digital journals and downlad limits..

  62. Pingback: Aaron Swartz, Coder and Activist, Dead at 26 | My Blog

  63. Thank you Alex Stamos… you are apparently one of the good guys… your integrity is a treasure that is so lacking in the prosecutors of this case…The whole thing i find despicable and fills me with nothing but contempt for the Prosecutors office and its henchmen.. but i believe the sickness of government abuse runs deep in all this and many other cases these days…

  64. Pingback: La vérité sur le crime supposé d’Aaron Swartz | Identification des schémas

  65. I have a serious question— in your post you say:

    “I know a criminal hack when I see it, and Aaron’s downloading of journal articles from an unlocked closet is not an offense worth 35 years in jail.”

    But this is an equivocation of sorts. You don’t ever actually come out and say what he did wasn’t criminal, or that there wasn’t any validity to the charges. It sounds to me like you’re making arguments for overcharging, etc… but I’m not sure what the point of that is? To me it indicates you cannot make the argument for innocence, and that given his death you are seeking the strongest possible response? While 35 years was presented by the US attorneys unless that is a fair representation of what his lawyers informed he would likely serve if convicted, it is simply here nor there as to whether it was a factor in his suicide, and therefore here nor there as a component of your statement.

    You appear to be building a very particular straw man, so I need to ask was it a crime? or wasn’t it a crime? Because the quotes in your headline implies perhaps it wasn’t, but you never actually say that— which to me implies it was since it would strengthen your statement significantly.

    I really don’t want to hash this out here or at this time, but your article seems to be getting a lot of attention; it was cited to me elsewhere. You downplay many components; such as changing a MAC address and putting the laptop in a closet but conveniently ignore, or claim ignorance, of what these details would be used to demonstrate. Obviously none of these are illegal, but to me and likely in a trial, they would be used to suggest an understanding that such behavior would not be openly accepted; a guilt of mind. If he simply downloaded the files openly in a computer lab on his laptop, or even in the library at a cubicle, I could believe that not only was he doing what he thought was right, but that as you imply but don’t state, he had no reason to believe it was unacceptable use and that he was not violating any terms of use posted. It is tough for me to believe one takes such steps to hide “inconsiderate” use, and while you state you are not speaking to his state of mind since you don’t know it, that is pure sophistry since your argument discusses facts in a manner which suggest state of mind. You don’t get to discredit components of the prosecutions case which target something you admit you have no knowledge of and are not speaking to. That is pure nonsense.

    Furthermore, you say a lot of loaded things, like he “did not hack for all reasonable definitions of hack.” Which is also, pure nonsense. Was there a folder on an FTP site containing all these files to be downloaded? No. The intended use of the site was manually clicking through links to find what you needed; any form of automation of these process, no matter how rudimentary which I agree this was, is a hack because it is an unintended use. While it may not constitute a break in, it certainly constitutes inelegant but effective use. As to whether this inelegant use became criminal, the US prosecution believed it could make its case, particularly with regard to the intended use of the files.

    This doesn’t even begin to touch an absurd emotional interjections, such as going to hug your kids, which I don’t know what that even means, or why it is in such a post, except to induce an emotional response by having the reader reflect upon what it would be like to have their own child or parent prosecuted and commit suicide; independent of the validity of the charges or the facts of their actions.

    Finally, I just want to assert that I believe this type of response to a suicide in all but the rarest of circumstances is inappropriate. Suicide is a personal choice and aside from statements of clear public protest, it is improper to draw conclusions or to attempt to influence external events by casting someone as a martyr, whether you use that word or not.

    He believed information should be free in a society which does not yet accept that proposition. He took actions which while consistent with his beliefs, conflicted with those of societies and its laws. Whether or not his prosecution or treatment was just depends highly on your views of how justice should function, and the validity of his beliefs, but the fact of his suicide should not influence any of those beliefs. If you believed he should be prosecuted before, you still should, but you imply otherwise, and I think that is absurd.

    I do not share his beliefs but I do share his ideals. I believe our society is not ready to transition to the state he desire because as long as our economy relies upon scarce resources for survival; food, water, shelter, etc, we must impose artificial scarcity on our information work product in order to be able to convert the abstract tasks necessary to generate this information into physically scarce goods required for survival. I think that not understanding this simple fact of life, is not just potentially disruptive, but legitimately dangerous for us as individuals and as a society.

    Dangerous ideas are not illegal; but actions consistent with dangerous ideas often are. Like Manning, like Assange, he chose to act on beliefs for which the punishment is very clear, and the zeal of the leviathan rarely matched. To minimize this fact and to say what happened to him was simply unfair is to treat him as a child. He did what he did and I can respect that, but I can also expect it to be punished up until the moment we collectively shift our stance.

    I hope you take the time to answer my initial questions and invite you to respond with any other thoughts you have.

      • It’s best to ignore that which you cannot refute. MD asks questions that obviously cannot be answered while maintaining the set of fictions so dear to the “digerati” here and elsewhere, so bent on hagiography.

  66. MD
    He didn’t make attempts to hide it. The MAC address thing is a very minimal form of security however, but it is more like a flow regulator. But this isn’t the problem. He could have legitimately, with or without changing the MAC addresses, got the URL addresses. He would have just had to have downloaded them fewer at a time. That isn’t the question. Because of his changing of the MAC addresses he was able to do it on a scale that was hard to ignore. He is not however doing anything that other students who did attend the campus might do. If you interviewed any MIT student, I would assume that they would have downloaded articles and sent them to MIT and non-MIT students alike, via email most likely or even maybe transferred them through FTP or even published them on the internet. The difference is the scale, but there was nothing which impermissible in what he did in terms of the downloading based on the published terms of use. The problem I have with making a big deal of the MAC address is that they would be indicative if he was doing it in furtherance of the commission of a crime. He could have gotten the addresses without doing that. It just would have been less convenient. It is not proximal to what he then did which I don’t believe was criminal or in furtherance of a crime.

    • I’m sorry Adele, but I just disagree with pretty much everything you said.

      On the surface, it does seem like he hid it, and, US Copyright law is specifically about scale. It becomes criminal, not just civil, when the scale of what you do crosses a $1000 threshold, and fair use defenses often fly out the window at that point as well.

      Convenience is also a huge issue; computer security fundamentally relies on a lack of convenience. It is inconvenient to factor incredibly large numbers and might take the length of the known universe to do so. RSA isn’t actually secure, its just functionally secure. It is also inconvenient to download millions of files four at a time with limited bit rates. If you know your users are limited to x at a time at y capped transfer rate, then they are implicitly limited to z files per year. Even if that theoretical limit is high, to assume that is not an intentional limitation on acceptable use which was circumvented is utter nonsense. You will detect people constantly downloading files and be able to deal with it.

      Sure, he could have gotten them without doing that, and if he had, maybe he wouldn’t have been charged, but the DMCA doesn’t provide safe-harbor for the use of automated systems and techniques when the user has knowledge of what he is doing and the intent of redistributing copyrighted work, and he did use such tools to circumvent a practical barrier to his task. Furthermore, it absolutely is proximal to what he did because he would not have sat there and done it manually or even at the speed and number of connections one MAC address allowed; in fact, it could not be done because it would’ve been detected as anomalous even more quickly.

      While I’ve never been a student at MIT, I’ve been one at several universities in the same class. I would’ve known this would be considered to be wrong, and I really have a hard time believing he didn’t know the university would not like it, and that he wanted to do it because it was consistent with his beliefs.

      • Let’s see. The bulk of research published on JSTOR is paid for by government grants. Where do you suppose “government money” comes from? Oh, that’s right, the taxpayers. The same public which is expected to pony up $35 per article (in electronic form) for the results of research WHICH THEY PAID FOR, ALREADY. This little phenomenon is known as “socializing the costs and privatizing the profits.” It’s a corrupt practice, and if the government weren’t already grossly corrupt already (Remember how HSBC, the bank the Mexican drug gangs use to launder their money, got off scot free a week ago or so?), it would be shocking. But if it’s OK for the US Government to blast 16-year-old kids into smithereens, it’s probably OK to drive vulnerable people to suicide by means of an absolutely outrageous prosecution. Not.

      • “It becomes criminal, not just civil, when the scale of what you do crosses a $1000 threshold….” Imagine, in the digital world, how easy it is to copy a file worth ten cents or a file worth $1M. What is the difference, really, in the digital world? Oh, and who gets to set the price? That’s right. The prosecution. How convenient.

        I understand your point of view, MD. I just have difficulty understanding WHY you wish to express it. I suppose if we want to change this system, we should get ourselves elected to school boards and join committees. That would be the responsible course of action, right? Speak at a Rotary Club meeting, maybe?

        People like Aaron have a lot of things they want to accomplish and would like to see changed. They are impatient. They will piss off suits. And some of those suits have a lot of power. It’s very easy to defend power and wag your finger at mavericks and visionaries who wish to make a better world. But go ahead and wag. Someone always has to.

      • So you can devine his intent; namely to distribute these articles on a commercial scale and make a lot of money from articles whose commercial value on the open market would be negligible. Contract trumps copyright. Open access, no acceptable use policy. Government funded work of authors compensated very little for their work. If they want an open system, and don’t put any restrictions in place, then what he did was not ‘hacking’. Agree with Aaron that he could at the highest be labelled ‘inconsiderate’. You aren’t admitting that the actions of the DOJ were grossly disproportionate to his conduct and that he had incurred the wrath of many people for his successfully campaigning against two failed legislative initiatives (SOPA/PIPA). It is called payback.

    • Read the indictment. He broke into a cabinet. He made a fake account and fake name. He hid his face with a bicycle helmut so the security cameras couldn’t see him.

      None of those acts are consistent with someone just using the system as intended.

      Accelerated downloading on this level — this scale — is not an intended use of the system and in fact it paralyzed the system. Of course it was criminal, and in furtherance of his overall criminal goals as indicated in his anarchist guerilla manifesto.

    • Of course the concern is copyright, but who’s not being honest about it? The reason he wasn’t charged with it is because he was fortunately stopped before he could commit the crime. They charged him with the crimes he did commit.

      Copyright is fundamental to our economic system. Arguing for the cause of free information is one thing, actually going out and taking and distributing that information is destabilizing and dangerous.

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  70. This habit of massive over-charging is, apparently, a common feature of the US ‘justice’ system and a standard method of feeding the Prison Industry. The aim is to terrorise the suspect to the extent that he’ll plead guilty to something he is innocent of simply to avoid the massive threats of disproportionate punishment. It’s no wonder that the US has one of the largest prison populations on the planet with such blatant dishonesty and cruelty an essential part of the system.

    It is a great tragedy that this wickedness has led to this wrongful death. In a fair country the prosecutor would face charges for bullying, as should MIT and JSTOR.

    Putting public research behind a payment wall (and JSTOR is not cheap) limits public knowledge and inhibits the availability of research – thus hampering future research. This is, ultimately, an anti-intellectual, luddite fetter on human knowledge.

    Let’s hope that this terrible, unnecessary death results in the opening up of this public knowledge to everybody.

    • The aim of overcharging is obviously not to terrorize suspects into pleading guilty to something they are innocent of, but to terrorize suspects into pleading guilty to something they are guilty of – and actually something considerably less serious than what they are really guilty of – so that the case can be resolved quickly and the prosecutors can move on to the next case.

      Whether Aaron’s actions should be illegal or not is a separate question. That they are illegal under current law seems rather clear. The prosecutor has an obligation to prosecute actual crimes, and I see nothing here that indicates that he acted in any way improperly.

      It is a sad situation whenever someone takes their life, but it is really ugly to lash out at others and attempt to lay the blame on them.

      • The fact that this is common practice doesn’t make it just or ethical. To force innocent people to plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit – which is common – is a miscarriage of justice; to force people guilty of a minor crime – which should be a civil matter between MIT, JSTOR, and Aaron – into a guilty plea for a major crime is also a gross miscarriage of justice. To do the latter when the defendant is known to suffer from major depressive disorder is unspeakably evil – especially considering that the prosecution which had originally charged him with four felonies in 2011 upped the number to 13 in September 2012. In short, they hounded and bullied him to death and they damned well knew what they were doing.

        Your comment is outrageous. There’s a reason that the US is turning into a police state and you’re part of it.

      • Forcing innocent people to plead guilty to a crime they did not commit is certainly unjust. But that is clearly not the case here. Aaron did commit a crime. The usual practice in plea bargains is for the criminal to plead to a significantly lesser charge than what he is actually guilty of. The criminal gets reduced charges and a lighter sentence, and the prosecutor gets to resolve the case quickly and move on to other cases. That was obviously the case here.

        It is absurd to claim that a prosecutor has no right to pursue a case because the defendant suffers from depression. What kind of ridiculous standard is that? And how would the prosecutor know that the defendant really suffered from such an ailment, or that it would inevitably lead to his suicide? How, in fact, do you know that any of this played a role in his suicide?

        Look, the kid may well have been a great person in many ways. It certainly is sad beyond words that he took his life. But he did something really dumb, clearly illegal (and he clearly knew it), and he had to face the consequences. It makes no sense lashing out at the prosecutors, or the law, or society in general. Even in your utopia, there will be laws that need to be followed, and consequences for those who violate them.

        Nobody wants to get harsh on a kid who died so tragically, but his supporters here are trying to elevate their normal feelings of sadness and support for Aaron into political statements and vicious attacks on anyone who got in his way of stealing other people’s property. That is going way too far.

      • Let’s see. The bulk of research published on JSTOR is paid for by government grants. Where do you suppose “government money” comes from? Oh, that’s right, the taxpayers. The same public which is expected to pony up $35 per article (in electronic form) for the results of research WHICH THEY PAID FOR, ALREADY. This little phenomenon is known as “socializing the costs and privatizing the profits.” It’s a corrupt practice, and if the government weren’t already grossly corrupt already (Remember how HSBC, the bank the Mexican drug gangs use to launder their money, got off scot free a week ago or so?), it would be shocking. The “other people’s property” you’re talking about isn’t JSTOR’s property – they’re putting a paywall around property which belongs to the taxpayer and collecting money for property which was never theirs in the first place. It’s like fencing the commons. It’s not legit in the first place.

      • Unfortunately, you’re using phrases here like “are guilty” too easily.

        The aim of overcharging is to terrorize suspects into pleading guilty to something less serious then what *the prosecutors believe them to be guilty of*.

        The thing is, that is itself a grave injustice. One person’s opinion and evaluation of the evidence shouldn’t be enough to deprive you of your liberty.

        A truly innocent person, with money, a good lawyer, a good story, and luck, may be able to stand against something like a life sentence and come out clean — though a good bit poorer, unless they had a very very good public defender.

        But they might just get the book thrown at them, and so they have to do something that they should *not* ever have to do in a just society.

        They have to consider if standing up for their innocence is worth it. On the one hand, they can accept some smaller period of misery and loss of freedom (not to mention violence and quite often, rape) — and come out the other side branded a felon, denied basic rights everyone else enjoys,… or risk what amounts to the rest of their life in such conditions.

        The odds are supposed to be stacked in the favor of the accused, it is *supposed* to be hard for the government to lock someone away. Massive overcharging to leverage plea bargains reverses the tables and puts the burden on the accused, not the government..

        No longer is it the duty of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what you actually did: now it is a bureaucracy burying you until you can’t breathe or risk standing up for yourself.

        That’s *wrong*.

        The prosecutor has a duty to prosecute *actual* crimes. Overcharging takes the actual crime, and piles all kinds of other crimes and criminal things on top of it. That’s improper, unethical, and frankly disgusting.

        Legal and done all the time in our system, yes. But it’s still *wrong* as all hell.

  71. Thank You for your time in helping so many of us understand this situation. The “charges” brought against this extremely bright young man seem inflated only to intimidate & pressure him. His death is truly tragic. It’s so odd that in a time when a “Stop Bullying” Campaign runs rampant through schools,on tv,etc. (for good reason). This young man seemed targeted & bullied by our own government… Tragic.

    (Probably a bunch of spelling/grammar type-o’ bad)

  72. Pingback: The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime” « Uncertainty

  73. Agree with the comments relating to the abuse of prosecutorial discretion and the overzealous simplistic comments of the US Attornies in this case to the effect that theft is theft ‘whether it be dollars or data’. Invoking this kind of rhetoric is irresponsible. Database vendors have been lobbying the US Congress now for misappropriation type copyright type protection for years now based on the resurrection of an old tort doctrine in a 1928 case (INS News). They are in fact trying to attain a perpetual copyright type protection over what is ‘data’ or ‘information’, over everything from DNA sequences to other raw data, stifling research and the advancement of knowledge over so many areas of human endeavour. Although the US Attornies’ comments were not apposite in this particular case, they strike at the heart of what is happening; increasingly these purveyors of information are locking up ‘facts’ and ‘knowledge’, and as Judges said in the old copyright map-making cases in the 18th century, in doing so, “manacling science”.

    • What evidence is there that any active scientist has ever had their research impaired by an inability to access scientific articles? It is standard practice for universities and other research institutions to pay for blanket subscriptions for all their students and researchers to access all articles. That is why Aaron was able to access all this stuff – anyone at MIT, or Harvard, or any other institution has free access. Meanwhile, with the institutions paying for the subscription, the publishing houses and the authors are compensated as well.

      Yes it is true that some copyright lawyers try to push for locking up more and more information, beyond the point of reason, fairness or practicality. That certainly should inspire pushback, but it does not justify going to the opposite extreme.

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  78. Seems to me like this would actually be two different cases: one, a very bright and intelligent kid committing suicide. two, (potentially) overreaching prosecutors with unclear motives to do so, possibly political ones. Both cases raise important questions (eventually also public policy questions) and of course I cannot exclude that eventually there might be some links to be found between the two cases (or not!). However, to mix both cases at such an early time after the suicide and on the basis of so little knowledge does not do them justice and is, in my perception, quite unfair towards all actors involved. Did anybody ever consider that all this blaming might be a way too fast, easy, and convenient answer as to why a seemingly very bright kid struggles with himself and our world and society (i.e. us!) (or only one of those elements) so much as to kill himself? And if that prosecutor has half a heart (and or half a brain), and I am sure he or she has – so far I have found one in every human being – this must be a terrible shock for him/her and his/her staff, too. Imagine you would sue someone fully believing in your case and the opposite party would commit suicide…

    Anyhow, and regarding case 2, did Mr. Swartz ever redistribute or even sell the files? As an absolute layman I have a hard time figuring out what damage he has done?!

    • There is no proof that he intended to distribute them. He had a history of analyzing large databases (e.g. which lawyers were paid to write papers) as well as distribution (e.g. PACER). In any case, this was rendered moot when he was arrested and turned in the hard drives.

      • This seems incredibly disingenuous. He was part of a movement for liberating information. He often and eloquently spoke of his mission to distribute this data. From his own “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” reference in a comment above:

        “We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world….We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks.”

        Why are you trying to deny what this is all about?

      • Joe, you’re all over this weblog. Is this a job for you?

        Incidentally, here’s the full document. Note that most if not all of the research on JSTOR is paid for by the taxpayers, and to force them to pony up $35 for an eight page article which they already paid for is frankly despicable.

        Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

        There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

        That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

        “I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

        Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

        Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

        But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

        Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

        There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

        We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

        With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

        Aaron Swartz
        July 2008, Eremo, Italy

      • streamfortyseven

        You’re using an argument I read a lot – paid for by the taxpayer……..

        Institutions and their activities are funded by tuition fees. They buy the content for the people who have paid them to buy it on their behalf – there students

        You haven’t paid a dime for any of these journals. Universities buy them for their students. As they’ve paid them to

      • Tuition pays for a remarkably low part of the *teaching* role of the university. Research is paid for by grants, very often from state and federal government agencies. The results of that research should be used for the benefit of the people who paid for it – the public. Corporations have in-house research for a reason – their intent is to profit – and they don’t ask the public to ante up, up front. Those results are proprietary. Fankly, if a university gets a 501c3 designation, the results of any research done *there* should be public. The only way that research should be private is if it is paid for privately and done in privately-held facilities which don’t get a tax break.

  79. Pingback: Expert witness describes Aaron Swartz’s "crimes" | Independent News Hub

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  81. Pingback: The Death of Aaron Swartz « blog

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  84. On some internet Forums, posting a single dot is a mark of respect, a placeholder for mournful silence.

  85. Pingback: Reddit-Mitgründer Aaron Swartz ist tot | tech:buzz

  86. Pingback: A murit Aaron Swartz, co-fondator al Reddit si martir al internetului | RENNE: Revista online

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  89. Pingback: The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime” | Where the streets have no name

  90. Pingback: Thought this was cool: 少年心气 - 艾伦·斯沃兹(Aaron Swartz) 的传奇 « CWYAlpha

  91. Agree John Doe, he handed the drive back. Jonathan, all of this moral posturing over copyright is overshadowing the tragic fact that a young person killed themselves.

    • He handed the drive back when he was arrested.That doesn’t count for much. He was very much on the record that his motivation in these types of action was to distribute these documents freely.

      I think it is more the case that many people here are trying to use this tragedy to obscure the moral questions involved, to deny that there are any moral issues with these actions, and to blame others – the prosecutor – for a personal tragedy.

      The prosecutor was doing his job – enforcing the laws that our democracy has put into place. If you don’t like the laws, then work to change them. If you choose the route of civil disobedience, then the whole point of that is to willingly take upon yourself the prescribed punishment. It makes no sense whatsoever to be blaming the prosecutor for any of this.

  92. Pingback: Aaron Swartz November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013 (age 26) « adafruit industries blog

  93. Pingback: The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s Crime by Colin Devroe

  94. Freedom of information is a threat to those in the establishment that abuse public power in the shadows.

    The hounding of Aaron Swartz by the establishment is threat to all of us who want a more transparent and a less corrupt world.

  95. Should we, again, emphasize the need of a limited government and the dangers of a system that does everything to punish but so little to restore?

    RIP Aaron.

  96. thank you. i tried yesterday to leave a few pro-Aaron comments on the boing boing article, but they were “comment trimming” and mine were deleted. but you have provided a much more detailed analysis. i’m sorry for the loss to everyone. rare person.

  97. Alex, thanks for this article… Sounds like the prosecutor is guilty and should be put away for 20 years because he (in my opinion) has violated the Hobbs AntI Corruption Act of 1951 (interfering with commerce and threats under the Color of right)… Why is it this creeps is not put in jail? In my world, (my opinion again) I would go to charge him with AARON’s death too…
    The fact this young and very smart man took his life, had to be feeling so cornered by these vicious GOVERNMENT CREEPS…
    This is how it started in Syria in 1973 and we can stop it (here in USA) by DEMANDING the arrest and prospecting ALL government workers Servants acting like TYRANTS

  98. Pingback: No, Aaron Swartz non è il tizio che ha spiegato il finale di Infinite Jest | inciampando sulle acque

  99. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They aren’t all kids or teenagers. Cases like these are where they learn these methods.

    It’s funny that the modern information age hasn’t made it any easier for people to get the story behind the incident. It’s looking for and more like the ideal tool for revenge damn the consequences.

    Good luck telling this story. I admit I was swayed at one point by the “noise” out there, but I find it odd that threats to his person included such draconian sentences. What exactly were they trying to accomplish, and what was their endgame? It’d be nice to know because copyright protection seems to lean towards similarly draconian punishments.

    There is a real fear in there when such large sticks are brandished…what exactly is the fear?

  100. Pingback: Froschs Blog » Blog Archive » Im Netz aufgefischt #93

  101. Pingback: Remember Aaron Swartz by working against government abuses | IT Support London |

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  104. Pingback: Remember Aaron Swartz by working against government abuses – The Guardian

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  106. Government overreach has been a common epidemic for quite some time. This bad publicity from a young man’s suicide is a mere impermanent pimple on the ass of Big Brother. It is society’s duty to keep it inflamed.

  107. Pingback: Farewell, Aaron Swartz | slutrix's Virtual World of Desires

  108. Pingback: Aaron Swartz’s Death Product of Criminal Justice System Rife with Intimidation and Prosecutorial Overreach « LeakSource

  109. Pff, I think the US government has fallen off its rocker. They seem hungry to prosecute anyone that has a computer anymore… So glad I live in the UK.

  110. Pingback: The Truth about Aaron Swartz by « LilBambi’s Blog – BambisMusings

  111. Pingback: Remember Aaron Swartz « Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar II

  112. Pingback: La verdad sobre el “crimen” de Aaron Swartz « Fundación Vía Libre

  113. Thanks for making this info public.

    Americans often seem to persecute those who tell you the truth and encourage, or worse, resource/support, those who lie to you.

  114. Pingback: The Aaron Schwartz incident | VIRTUAL DAN

  115. Wanna know what’s really sad? ANYONE can get a Boston Public Library Card and remotely access JSTOR via BPL’s website.

    JSTOR was pretty much open access anyway if you could find your way to Boston and get a card.
    I’m nearly certain this is an unconstitutional law because it makes breach of contract (an adhesion contract at that) a felony

    • Unspeakably sad, because if you could get this through the Boston Public Library, you could have gotten it through the Cambridge Public Library as well,

      I check out libraries wherever I go, and the CPB is a really good library, with great customer service.

  116. Pingback: The Aaron Schwartz Incident | VIRTUAL DAN

  117. Pingback: Reactions to the Death of Internet Activist Aaron Swartz | BirchIndigo

  118. The openness of MIT’s network makes Swartz look *worse*, not better. He took advantage of MIT’s kindness to facilitate his acts. Just because I keep my doors unlocked because I want guests to drop in does NOT make it OK to take my things without permission.

    And he knew he was doing something illegal (although he may have believed it should not be), as evidenced by the actions described in the indictment. If you don’t want to read a long legal document, you can get the facts in an easier-to-read format right here (although I’m guessing you know this already):

    > Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity…

    Really?! Providing a fake guest name when connecting? Trespassing to hide a computer in a place that would be hard to find? Changing the MAC address a dozen times to get around being blocked? “Changing a MAC address is not illegal” is a disingenuous statement, because he was doing so to get access to files he was not supposed to otherwise have.

    And his actions in the physical world make him look even worse: Hiding his face behind a helmet when trespassing? Dropping his bike and trying to run away when he came across cops? Please.

    The law is very concerned with *intent*. (“Mens rea”; look it up.) This is why attempted murder is a crime even if no harm actually occurs. And from all his actions, Swartz very well knew he was doing something wrong.

    We can debate whether the current cybercrime laws or copyright laws are fair, but please — let’s not try to make Swartz look like he did not know it was wrong.

    • @skeptic

      You wrote: “… let’s not try to make Swartz look like he did not know it [his action in respect of his actions] was wrong.”

      This comment is so idiotic I don’t know where to start, but I will make this brief.

      “wrong” legally? Of course he knew, as do we all. But the law is an ass. Morally and ethically, I have no issue with his actions at all.

      Please do yourself and everyone a favour and check out common fallacies. In particular Straw Man.


      • His comment is not idiotic at all. Yours is.

        You go on to admit that he, and everyone knows that Aaron’s action was legally wrong. So, in the space of two sentences you claim that Skeptic’s point is idiotic, and correct.

        Skeptic was obviously discussing “wrong” in the legal sense, so your reference to moral and ethical standards (or your lack thereof) is irrelevant.

        What he did was illegal and thus there is no rational basis for blaming the prosecutor from doing his job to uphold the laws.

        You think the law “is an ass”? Then you work to change the law. If you think that people should be free to break any law they disagree with, then you preclude the possibility of ever having a peaceful and decent society.

      • I think Joe Citizen is “Ken M”‘s new gig.

        If so, love your work, Ken. If not, Joe, you might like to at least acknowledge that you have special powers of detection i.e. you somehow “know” exactly what people mean when they use language subjectively.

        Oh, Lucretia’s suggestion is a good one too …

      • Dear “Joe Citizen” — the phrase “the law is an ass” is a quote from “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens. You might want to familiarize yourself with what it implies.

      • Here’s the specific sentence I was refuting:

        > Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity…

        Throughout the article, the author is trying to imply Swartz thought he did nothing wrong and was only “exploiting a loophole” and simply “being inconsiderate”. His actions clearly belie that implication.

        And yes, let’s conveniently ignore this sentence of mine, which makes it clear what kind of “wrong” I was talking about:

        > And he knew he was doing something illegal (although he may have believed it should not be)…

        I think I’m not the one who needs to read up on what a Strawman is.

        By the way, note that this is not a minor point of confusion, and the author is probably not making it in error, which is why I brought it up. As an expert witness, he probably has experience in these matters and so probably knows that the law is all about *intent*. If Swartz could have proven that, in his mind, he was not doing something illegal, as the author is trying to imply, he very likely would have been let off lightly.

        So did he know he was doing something illegal? We’ll never know, and even after a trial, would have never truly known. But again, his actions, in the physical world and digital, make that it pretty clear that he did.

    • Was Swartz charged with trespassing? (how about the homeless man who was storing his stuff in the same closet?)

      When connecting your computers to a network, what do *you* set your host name to be?

      Are Swartz’s alleged crimes worth decades in prison and being labeled a felon?

  119. Pingback: Aaron Swartz, rest in peace » Knjigarna Behemot

  120. Pingback: The web responds to the death of hacker-activist Aaron Swartz — Tech News and Analysis

  121. Pingback: Death of Aaron Swartz « Keithpp's Blog

  122. Rest easy Aaron… its a sad day for all. Its a damn shame that prosecution is usually fueled by furthering their careers when taking part in these witch hunts… My condolences to the family and friends of this young man.

  123. Pingback: A Call to Arms « FUNCTION TEST CARD

  124. does anyone know what he intended to do with the information he obtained? was it for monetary gain, or for shits and giggles?

  125. Pingback: The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime” « Unhandled Exception | dylan tweney

  126. > Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity

    The entire purpose of going to MIT and using their network was to avoid having the downloads linked to himself. Otherwise he could have accessed JSTOR at Harvard where he was a Fellow at their Center for Ethics. He knew that he wasn’t authorized to download anywhere near the number of articles he wanted and that people would try to stop him so we went to a place that he figured would allow him get away with what he wanted to do without being caught.

    He used the fictitious name “Gary Host,” account “ghost,” and DHCP identifier “ghost laptop” (how clever.) After repeatedly changing his MAC address to get around the roadblocks erected by MIT network admins to stop his activity on the wirless net, he entered a wiring closet and hid his computer among the gear there in an attempt to continue using the JSTOR service without authorization. He was worried someone would find his computer so *he covered his face with his bike helmet to avoid being identified by video from a camera trained on the closet door.*

    For three months Swartz didn’t get the hint that JSTOR and MIT wanted him to stop. How much longer should they have kept playing whack-a-mole before calling the exterminator? If his actions caused no damage why did they eventually call the authorities at all?

    • who cares? everybody and their brother and sister sees that the way to the future is openess. even very prestigous schools are giving their classes, though in an online and certainly not as high a quality level education as really “being there”, but still. wake up.

  127. Pingback: On the so-called crimes of Aaron Swartz — War in Context

  128. Reblogged this on gdigger02 and commented:
    A sad commentary on the way that our government continues to go after pointless prosecutions of the “little guy” while you have people responsible for the financial crisis dining at the White House.

  129. Pingback: Aaron Swartz, Scholarship@Western, and Open Access | Click Here.

  130. I am older and understand virtually no part of the computer explanation you provided. I do understand this though, our Government says we need students to gravitate toward “Science and Math” if we are to compete with other countries. I have heard the President speak on this subject many times. For the very same Government to prosecute this young man so aggressively for excelling in his field of study is madness. I send comfort to the family. I send curses to the prosecution.

    • But of course he was not prosecuted for excelling in his field of study. He was prosecuted for taking documents that he had no right to take and threatening to distribute them in a manner that would deny a large amount of money to a legitimate business.

      • JSTOR isn’t a “legitimate business”, it’s taking information paid for with taxpayer money, and charging the same taxpayers exorbitant amounts of money for access to their own property. They’ve never been properly challenged, and now with this action of the government, as usual, taking the side of a large corporation and bullying to the point of suicide someone who could raise an effective case against this practice, it’s unlikely to ever happen.

      • steamfortyseven

        I don’t agree. Students pay fees to attend college. Colleges use this money to buy them access to content.

        They then put them in systems like JSTOR as a book share – so every university and student whose paid for these books can see them all.

        It’s a simple equation. You haven’t paid MIT anything for this stuff, so why should you get to use it?

      • Tuition pays for a remarkably low part of the *teaching* role of the university. Research is paid for by grants, very often from state and federal government agencies. The results of that research should be used for the benefit of the people who paid for it – the public. Corporations have in-house research for a reason – their intent is to profit – and they don’t ask the public to ante up, up front. Those results are proprietary. Fankly, if a university gets a 501c3 designation, the results of any research done *there* should be public. The only way that research should be private is if it is paid for privately and done in privately-held facilities which don’t get a tax break.

  131. I’m happy to allow a free-flowing conversation here, but only as long as it is on-target and respectful. Any posts referring to the ethic or religious backgrounds of the parties involved and responses to those posts will be removed.

  132. Pingback: Goodbye Aaron Swartz | My Observations

  133. I think the trial should continue. We should have court cases where dead people can defend themselves against other dead people. If you don’t need victims then you don’t need a defendant either?

  134. Pingback: Links & reads for 2013 Week 2 | Martin's Weekly Curations

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  136. Mr. Stamos, this is a beautifully written post. It saddens me that you never had the opportunity to testify to this on the stand, in front of Aaron.

    I keep typing more only to delete it. There are those who will understand what you’ve said here and the import of it… and those who never will, because to do so would provide a cognitive dissonance. Something Aaron once wrote eloquently about. May he rest in peace.

  137. Pingback: Aaron Swartz 1986-2012 | odd letters

  138. McCarthyism lives. Aaron kills himself. I don’t think even Bush/Cheney administration would have done this to Aaron.

  139. Pingback: Beyond “Where were you before?” | Syndicate and Hague

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  141. Aaron was a big player in stopping sopa. A much bigger player than most know (maybe the author knows ;)). Why is no one considering that maybe someone (or a few alphabet soupers we know) who were irked about sopa were lining this attorney’s pockets to make an example of Aaron.

  142. Pingback: Academics share copyrighted journal articles on Twitter to honor Aaron Swartz - The Verge - TWITTEROO.NET

  143. Pingback: The Truth -Aaron Swartz’s “Crime” « Unhandled Exception | LiterateOwl

  144. Pingback: Aaron Swartz 1986 – 2013 « NotionsCapital

  145. Pingback: Aaron Swartz Died Innocent — Here Is the Evidence

  146. Pingback: US attorney strikes again | Peace, Bruv

  147. Pingback: Library values and the growing scholarly digital divide: In memoriam Aaron Swartz | Bibliographic Wilderness

  148. Pingback: Algo esta fallando – sobre la muerte de Aaron Swartz « Lex Digitalis

  149. Pingback: MIT president issues statement on Aaron Swartz’s death, appoints investigator | VentureBeat

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  154. Aaron was an activist for freedom and the sharing of knowledge. The US is currently attempting to set limits on the internet and is punishing anyone who has the courage and conviction to argue for information freedom. Aaron and many others put themselves in the firing line when they fought against the draconian measures of SOPA. The US Government needed an excuse and they pounced even though he did nothing illegal.
    So disproportionate and unjust are the charges and penalties imposed by US authorities that the “law and order” party in the UK recently refused to extradite Gary McKinnon to the US and we have also Mr Assange holed up in a room in a foreign embassy in London.
    I didn’t know Aaron but I wish I had. His work and his commitment show a rare combination of intelligence, compassion and justice and I have no doubt he would have helped shape the world and make it a better place. It is tragic that we lost him.
    The US Government is as responsible for this injustice as if they had targeted Aaron with a drone. Maybe this will help people wake up to the way that the US is destroying lives, maybe something positive can come of this. I know that’s what Aaron would have hoped, his writing is full of wisdom that espouses understanding mistakes and learning from them. If only he had known how much he was admired, respected and loved by people who didn’t even know him.

  155. Pingback: Hacktivist’s suicide intensifies criticism of US attorney, MIT – Los Angeles Times

  156. Pingback: Aaron Swartz, hero of the open world, dies | Internet Archive Blogs

  157. Dear Mr. Stamos:

    Thank you for setting (most of) the facts straight regarding Aaron’s “crime”. I would like to add a few clarifications.

    I briefly worked at JSTOR during the the time Aaron was doing the massive downloads from JSTOR. I was not the principal engineer involved, but I did work on a daily basis with the person who was in charge. I saw many of the relevant server logs from these events. (I no longer work for JSTOR, nor are any of my comments in any way representative of JSTOR or anyone else involved.)

    You are 100% correct that there was no “hack” involved.

    There *was* some incidental harm to JSTOR and JSTOR users, in that Aaron’s downloads caused several servers to start thrashing. Call it a (presumably) accidental DDoS. So the access of a substantial number of users was seriously degraded. Plus the waste of (my estimate) several person-days of time trying to track down and resolve the problem.

    You characterization of “silly overreactions such as turning off all of MIT’s JSTOR access” is not factual, is purely speculative — and you are missing relevant information. It may be obvious in hindsight what happened, but at the time it was a serious issue, and the MAC addresses were changing in such a way that could have been a truly distributed attack. Perhaps more importantly, my perception was that MIT was being very unhelpful in diagnosing the problem. (Frankly, the attitude sounded like “we’re the world’s best engineers, there must be something wrong with *your* network.”) I suspect that closing off all of MIT’s access was as much a wake-up call to MIT as it was an attempt to stop the downloading.

    Your statement that “Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity” is dubious at best. Yes, changing the MAC addresses is pretty simplistic — but they *were* changed, and pretty clearly by intent.

    The saddest part of all of this, is that Aaron could have had many, possible most, of the documents in question — just BY ASKING. At the time, JSTOR had previously made arrangements with academics for large bulk downloads or transfers of documents.

    Other than these factual clarifications, I completely agree with your article. My understanding is that JSTOR did not press charges, and certainly did not countenance the absurd prosecution (nay, persecution) that followed. Certainly the sense of the staff at JSTOR that I encountered, was that he deserved a slap on the wrist and a couple of days of community service, to make up for the severe inconveniences that he caused.

  158. Pingback: Online activist, programmer Swartz dies in N.Y. - ALIPAC

  159. Pingback: Hacktivist’s suicide intensifies criticism of US attorney, MIT | The Las Angeles Times

  160. As for the folks who have been complaining about JSTOR… your grief and anger about Aaron’s death are very understandable. But please get the facts straight before you jump to (sometimes wild) conclusions.

    JSTOR provides an indexing, search, and retrieval service for a wide variety of historical and academic documents. Some of them are in the public domain. Some are copyrighted, and are made available to JSTOR users by arrangement with the copyright owners. (You pay JSTOR, JSTOR pays the copyright owner.) Some are the result of taxpayer-funded research (both in the US and from other countries).

    The laws around this are complicated, but here’s the simple part. If an article is either public domain, OR is covered by relevant laws that require free disclosure (which applies to many US-funded research projects), THEN you, or Aaron, or anyone, are perfectly free to download them from JSTOR and publish them anywhere! Yes, you have to pay JSTOR — once! — because you are paying for the **service** — not the content. If you want to then give it away, you can. (Of course, YOU have to pay for the server, the network connection, the electricity, the maintenance… you get the idea.) There’s nothing wrong, or greedy, or un-American, or un-Internet about JSTOR’s business model. Even public libraries charge fees, or get tax-payer dollars.

    There’s more information at the Wikipedia JSTOR article, see

  161. Pingback: In Memory of Aaron Swartz: Here are 14 Ways to Fight Back Against the “Intellectual Property” Racket | Truth-Media.Info

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  163. Pingback: Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide « maclalala:link

  164. Pingback: The Last Days of Aaron Swartz « The Information Policy Blog

  165. And thank you for allowing the free flow of comments Alex. Even the ones questioning of Aaron. That is in my lowly opinion the best tribute you could do for him. I never knew him but I would like to think that he would have liked that. Correction, might like it.

  166. Pingback: Black Shards Press » Thoughts About Aaron Swartz, “Hacking”, and the Law

  167. Pingback: The Whitehaven hoax: ratbag act or legitimate protest? | Castan Centre for Human Rights Law

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  176. Pingback: Hacking? no- The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime” « Unhandled Exception | LiterateOwl

  177. Pingback: Aaron Swartz, Dead At 26 « 4&20 blackbirds

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  181. Pingback: is this ARG? » Blog Archive » Social Media Digest for January 13th

  182. Pingback: Hacktivist’s suicide intensifies criticism of U.S. attorney, MIT « conspiracyoz

  183. Pingback: How Much is that Journal Article in the Window? | Digital Histories at Yale

  184. Thanks a lot for sharing such insightful information with the world.
    Having such benign ministrant with him in his troublesome days, I just can pray that Aaron’s soul rest in peace..

    At the same time, you being so close to all the information, I think its only you who can find/investigate if Aaron actually committed suicide or can there be any conspiracy behind this. I am reading that he was fighting depression and had whole lot of other problems with him, but I seriously doubt that a person like him would do something like killing himself just to run away from the fear of punishment.

    I seriously smell something is wrong somewhere, may be I am too skeptical, but something is surely amiss !!

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  186. Pingback: Fighting Back Against the ‘Intellectual Property’ Racket « Talesfromthelou's Blog

  187. Pingback: aaron swartz: viveu por uma rede livre, aberta, de todos. morreu muito antes. | dia a dia, bit a bit

  188. Eliminate copyright and patent. Especially for any organization that receives public money of any kind. It’s OUR stuff.

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  201. Pingback: Aaron Swartz Hacker Case Ends With Suicide - Forbes

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  210. I didn’t know Aaron…I didn’t know who he was until yesterday….I began to pick up the pieces of his life and struggles in a mosaic of blogs and letters and posts and video’s…he embodied the bright light…a light so powerful a threat that the darkness pursued him and sought to extinguish his fire….he fought for freedom…be it the internet or the injustice of a system bent on hoarding resources and entitlements for the few…he was smart…a scrapper for freedom…relentless in his quest to share knowledge with all of us…he was authentic….he was all heart…

    So if you feel that burning desire to free yourself… to rage at the machine..then in some way you know Aaron too….and maybe just maybe….his passing will remind of us what we know….out most brilliant light is fleeting and we should forge the mosaic while it shines….I pray we carry the torch as well as you did….Rest well in peace Aaron…

  211. Pingback: Links 14/1/2013: Desktops Market in Demise, Aaron’s Eulogies | Techrights

  212. Pingback: Corruptissima Re Publica Plurimae Leges — Aaron Swartz

  213. I am of two minds on this matter. I have a little experience with law enforcement on Massachusetts and I think there is a problem in that state with over charging. Prosecutors may be building their careers by going extra tough on crimes that are not terribly serious.

    On the other hand, I once was a prosecutor and it seems that Mr. Swartz was being fast and loose with the law. He deserved some attention from law enforcement, but perhaps not the major felonies he was charged with.

    I was once prosecuting a case that started off as a minor misdemeanor for shoplifting. Unfortunately, the defendant tried to escape, wrestled with a police officer, seriously bit the officer’s thumb, then grabbed the officer’s gun. For that, we charged her with a 1st degree felony. She pleaded guilty and later committed suicide. I did not want her to die and felt sad, but I did not feel responsible.

    I feel sorry for the pain Mr. Swartz endured. I feel very sorry for his family.

  214. Pingback: We Are All Aaron Swartz! Fighting Back Against the “Intellectual Property” Racket By Tony Cartalucci « William

  215. Pingback: Jamie brings tales (and crime?) from the northwest, Idle No More, federal-led Aaron Swartz witch hunt and his suicide at Unreported

  216. Pingback: Chi o cosa c’è dietro la morte di Aaron Swartz? « ilpicchioparlante

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  218. I can’t understand how the justice department had the time, staff, and understanding to pursue this case. If only they would pursue the REAL crimes committed in our financial sector that did real harm with such vigor. To listen to them, those cases are too “difficult” to prove. Much harder than hounding a young genius to death.

  219. I looked briefly the the indictment via and noted the following items:
    #31: “intended to distribute… one or more file-sharing sites” — how was this known or inferred besides 2008’s “Gorilla Open Access Manifesto”?
    #16: “impair” others users’ access. The indictment does not mention this but via The Tech “several JSTOR servers crashed”. What was the scale and scope of any diminished performance or partial/total outage as supported by JSTOR logs?
    #24: “restricted network interface closet”. Was this an unlocked closet with no video monitoring until wrongdoing was suspected?
    #15: “JSTOR’s computerized efforts to restrict the volume of individual user downloads”. Later: “JSTOR spotted the access” — this implies a manual vs. automated control.

    Can someone versed in law/policy/other stakeholders provide comment about the Federal involvement even thought JSTOR and MIT were not interested in pursuing criminal charges?

  220. “Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity”

    Aaron entered a restricted networking room, attached his laptop directly to the network switch, hid the laptop under a box and then apparently aware that the networking room might be under video surveillance, hid his face behind a bicycle helmet.

    Oh, and when confronted by the police, Aaron attempted to flee.

    This is what is know in law enforcement as “consciouness of guilt”

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  222. Pingback: Aaron Swartz – Purveyor of Freedom « sonicalkaline

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  224. Pingback: US justice system ‘overreach’ blamed in suicide of Internet freedom activist : Nature News Blog

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  229. I think the one thing you’re omitting is the implication of what it means to be on MIT’s 18.x network. I am not familiar with MIT’s policies, but if the use policies of the network permit anyone off the street to plug-in and access the JSTOR resources, then Aaron did nothing wrong. If the policies are meant to only allow access to people who have a direct relationship with MIT; such as students or faculty, then he did do something wrong. What are the policies?

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  237. If he wanted to distribute the documents at JSTOR, maybe he should have done the common sense thing to do first when you want to share something that isn’t obviously yours: ask for permission.

    Rather than just ask, and do things the right way, it seems that he felt that he could do whatever he wanted, and he was above common sense, common courtesy, and any rules implicitly or explicitly commonly abided by in the MIT community.

    The simple facts appear to be that he did something wrong and he was being prosecuted for it.

    The prosecuting US attorney, Carmen Ortiz, said “Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.”

    Is it a shame that he did something wrong and that we’ve clearly lost a genius? Yes. Does it change the fact that he clearly appears to have been trying to do something that was at least inconsiderate and at most highly illegal? No.

    How different is this from Napster a while ago… when people shared copyrighted music to others who hadn’t bought their own copy? Just because you want everything to be free and all information to be free doesn’t mean it is. Information has value! That’s why we have copyright law and the notion of intellectual property.

    • He may have done something wrong, almost everyone agrees with that.

      The simple facts appear to be that may have done something wrong, and should have been charged with a crime. A misdemeanor at most. Not 13 felonies, not something whose maximum could earn him 35 years in prison, not something that could have a million dollar fine. The simple facts appear to be that this whole thing should have, by any reasonable standard, been plead out to days or weeks in county jail and a thousand hours of community service and probation.

      The simple facts are that the US attorney went so far beyond reasonable in abusing her discretion by demanding that he plea to not one but 13 felonies — forever forfeiting important personal rights — and insisted on hard jail time for an offense that has no complaining victim.

      How different is this from Napster? Its hard to find a way in which they’re similar at all. JSTOR does not have copyright on the content he was “stealing”, does not in any way — even indirectly — actually pay for the content to be produced (unlike record labels, in theory), and despite all of this, did not want this to be prosecuted at all.

      The outrage isn’t that he was being prosecuted for doing something “wrong”: the outrage is that what he was being prosecuted for was so absurdly out of proportion for what he actually did that it was *in itself* an act of injustice to put him through it.

      As to her quote, “Stealing is stealing” is nonsense. We have intellectual property and copyright law, but to equate copyright violation with theft is absurd. If I steal your car, you are deprived of that car. You have suffered a direct, actual loss, and I have benefited by acquiring a value.

      If I copy a file you wrote and give it to someone, it is true you *may* have suffered a loss — that person *may* have, were it not for my copying, bought the file from you. But they may not have. The loss you suffer is in theoretical maybe-sales, which is *not* the same thing as the loss you suffer from an actual theft… and I may gain no value at all as a result.

      I’m not saying copyright violation shouldn’t be punished on some scale, taking into account the nuances of the situation– but equating it to theft and stealing (and piracy!) is nonsensical propaganda. Stealing has almost no nuance. Saying “stealing is stealing” and equating copyright violation with theft is at best intellectually flawed, more likely dishonest if not an outright lie.

      • I don’t buy nobody was complaining.

        MIT made several complaints. Probably because he violated all of their agreements, in regards to content, and made them liable to legal action.

        You know, 35 years is harsh, but don’t go too far the other way.

        If I went on to my computer server, downloaded all of it’s data, and threatened to leak it to the internet, I’d probably end up in prison

  238. Pingback: There is message to decrypt in every act of suicide. Did we get Aaron Swartz’s message? « IPrivacy4IT – Clarinette's blog

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  241. Pingback: The Federal Government Kills Another Peaceful Critic- RIP Aaron Swartz |

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  251. Sly, manipulative and cunning nonsense from start to finish. I refute it point by point here:

    Like so many of Swartz’s highly self-interested supporters, you don’t grant him the significance of his own convictions and his “propagganda of the deed,” and you don’t concede the criminality in this major hacking attack on the system to smash the ability of universities to have walled gardens and paid content walls.

    • Apparently you do this sort of thing fairly often:

      “The reason you see so much vandalism of my record on the Internet is that the earliest forms of Anonymous that got their start in Second Life targeted me because of my critique of the open source extremists and anti-capitalists/technocommunists, and constantly harassed me, griefed me, and crashed my servers, trying to harm my little micropayments business (no, I’m not some kind of virtual tycoon, I have an extremely modest little operation on only a dozen servers — the real estate magnates like Anshe Chung in this world have hundreds of servers).”

      For every Rebel, there’s got to be a Tory, I suppose. What was it that Samuel Adams once said? Here:

      “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

      • Yes, apparently you’re yet another one of the Anonymous storm-troopers who cannot tolerate freedom on the Internet. Unless everyone adopts your rigid, sectarian worldview about what “liberty” is — “liberating” private property being the chief tenant and “code of law” instead of the rule of law over yourselves, why they have to be shunned or killed. I’m not a “Tory”, I’m a normal liberal and registered Democrat. It’s only in the world of your amplified Internet sectarianism that normal human rights values can seem like some sort of “conservative” viewpoint.

        I’ve been consistent in my views for my whole life and I will not be deterred by a bunch of online thugs.

      • JSTOR fenced in public property, research paid for with taxpayer dollars, and made its money by charging for access. That’s like me putting a fence around a public park, and charging admission. It’s a good scam if you can get away with it. You’re a piece of work, lady, and people like you are the reason I’m not a registered Democrat or liberal.

    • @streamfortysence

      Um, JSTOR didn’t “fence” property — it is a nonprofit organization that provides a *service*. Apparently that’s an alien concept to you like most ethics-free hackers.

      You’re just re-chewing the same tired few agitprop memes devised by some OWS/WikiLeaks/Anon cadre leaders and it gets old. It doesn’t matter if the government pays for *some* of the research; some of it is paid for by private donors and corporations, too. So what? There’s no centralized socialist committee that says you cannot earn more revenue on top of your product made with a government grant. In fact, having a business model that can cover the not-trivial costs of digitalizing and maintaining and serving and storing content is more than fine; it’s the normal way the Internet works when hackers aren’t trying to hysterically impose their pastoral communist diktat on it with their tractors.

      No doubt there are ways you do this in your own life, whether supported by government, university, Big IT or Mom’s basement, you no doubt charge for your coding time or consulting on top of your open source cultic work for the commuuuunity.

      BTW for everyone interested in a grown-up discussion about the law here and how in fact it was properly applied, see the Volokh Conspiracy

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  253. Pingback: May Aaron Swartz’s memory live on | My Blog

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  259. Nice defense, thanks for taking the time…

    Nevertheless, he’s a leftist ideologically and a thief, end of discussion.

    Since the ultimate choice was his, I’ll second his motion and I’m sure he’d agree.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    More oxygen for us all to breathe…

    • Thief?…that’s funny, cos the stuff he was said to have stolen, still exists inits original place, and he took information he was entitled to…copied yes, stolen no. Please study English.

    • You are truly a creature born of the demon (troll) realm of existence. Spewing vile hatred. You will one day regret your words unfortunately that will be on your death bed. Unbelievable how cruel and heartless people can be.

    • So everyone on the left of the political spectrum is instantly invalidated from being a good person?

      Thief point is already covered (Sole consensus)

      If you think the ‘Ultimate choice’ was his, then you nothing of or about depression, (my own comments on it are kicking around somewhere in the comment, do ctrl + f)

      Yes, celebrate that a brilliant innovator, inventor and person is dead. Celebrate! Dance on his grave while his girlfriend watches.

      PS: The Political left is the only reason that the air you breath is clear and non toxic.

  260. Pingback: Making Peer Review Pay | Forensics, Fossils and Fruitbats

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  263. Pingback: The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime” « Unhandled Exception « turnings :: daniel berlinger

  264. Pingback: Aaron, il genio suicida che commuove la Rete | Eliza

  265. Pingback: Arron Swartz Did Not Commit Suicide On Purpose. He was a Victim of The Katrina Virus. « AfterAmerica's Blog

  266. Here are a few more links (in case we need anymore) regarding the present justice system in the US.
    I posted these same yesterday on a discussion of Aaron, but they’re worth noting.
    the south has risen again. it is in your town now. what strange bedfellows the north made in their alliance with the gop in the past decades. what would you call a reverse aka southern carpetbagger, a’la Tom Delay, Rove, etc?

  267. Pingback: Aaron Schwartz commits suicide at 26 – Is this the real price of the anti-piracy crackdown? | Planet Ivy

  268. Thank you for this considerate post.

    It is incumbent on all of us to figure out how to create some positive change out of this unnecessary tragedy. I’ll write more on that later

    I would very much appreciate if you had the time. Don’t wait too long. This has a momentum, now and maybe a couple of days more. While teh interwebz is mourning one of its elders, we are all [*] still keen to learn and to reconsider.

    [*] Except, of course, trolls like the “ghost”.

  269. Pingback: DNA NÃO TEM JEITO… « FATOS & FOTOS

  270. Pingback: Tim Lee and Lawrence Lessig: “some punishment” of Swartz was “appropriate”

  271. Pingback: is this ARG? » Blog Archive » Social Media Digest for January 15th

  272. Pingback: Reflection and academic rebellion follow Swartz’s death (update) | Cambridge Day

  273. Pingback: What Funders Can (and Should) Do in the Wake of Aaron Swartz’s Death | Media Impact Funders

  274. Pingback: O suicídio do gênio da computação - Blog do Ataíde

  275. While I never heard of Aaron prior to his death, I feel a profound sense of loss over his passing. He was quite a gifted and remarkable young man. This world needs more Aaron’s.

    What makes Aaron’s case all the more farcical is the blatant inequity in the enforcement of the rule of law in this country. We are embroiled in a period that has seen more widespread fraud and corruption in the financial industry than any other time in history, with literally trillions in wealth absconded with, and not a single large player has been indicted. For example, ambitious prosecutors have been told to back down from charging banking officers with laundering hundreds of billions of dollars of drug money to impose financial sanctions on shareholders that represent a small percentage of their ill-gotten gains (allegedly to protect the stability of global banking). Pension plans took large losses as a result of millions of fraudulent mortgages written and sold as AAA, knowing they could never be repaid. Nobody at BP was charged with any felonies in the deaths of the platform workers or destruction of the Gulf from Deepwater Horizon. Yet the DOJ vigorously pursues Aaron Swartz, threatening him with 35 years in prison, for downloading freely available files and possibly planning to distribute them?

    Aaron’s biggest crime was that he used his consider talents to “steal” free articles instead of stealing funds from corporate accounts.

  276. Pingback: #PDFTribute — The First (And Hopefully Last) Open Access “Martyr” | Emerging Technologies Librarian

  277. Pingback: The case against Aaron Swartz was like sending someone to jail for checking too many books out of the library – Quartz

  278. It’s okay, everybody. I can only imagine that such an aggressive government will assign another federal prosecutor to pursue intimidation, libel, and murder charges against US Attorney Ortiz, ’cause you know, lady justice is a rabid, blind mistress.

  279. I wanted to get through everything before commenting, but I couldn’t make it.

    MIT, as an over-all institution, makes every effort in the world to get info out so they can fish the world for the best brains. I’ve cruised the halls at MIT and played with the nodes out in the open. MIT is all about interactivity, non-linear stuff, and big data.

    Their best professors have posted nearly everything, including on-line video of lectures, for years. A Perry Mason episode from decades ago pitted a genius kid and MIT against the kid’s parents. MIT won, as I recall.

    This is MIT’s branding, including the latest Edx thing. This open-ness is not maintained without countering extraordinary kvetching and manipulations from professors working on the old top-down, no-recourse model.

    Open access will not remain without work from the best brains, but Aaron’s death has a strong chance of instigating furious battles both inside and outside MIT.

    Outside influence has an effect, e.g., Sally Ride’s influence on how space-vehicle cameras came to be operated and gate-kept by kids. See Maria Zuber’s discussion of this.

    What I did not detect as far as I got in this discussion is the horrifying effect of Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s) in restricting access to their own students’ work by plomping their names on students’ work, thereby restricting access to new and important information.

    JSTOR’s executives probably make salaries similar to those of the leaders of Goodwill in Oregon, which is to say huge, by ordinary-person standards, even though the thing is called non-profit.

    Non-profit is one of the biggest scams going, along with “public/private.”

    Nowhere is this worse, to my knowledge, than in medical- and safety-information.

    The number of people who die each year when timely retractions are not effected is staggering. Medical doctors speak on NPR with confessions they would not themselves go in-patient without watchers to prevent harm from out-dated and faulty information and practice.

    Speaking of timely, our Just-Us system is such a lie concerning timely, that all kinds of alternative dispute-resolution tactics now exist. In Britain, I have heard, regular people are even going to Sharia courts because they want to get disputes over with.

    This is one big can of issues.

    The quality and number of responses here is truly amazing and wonderful. Thanks so much to all the brains that put work in to make this available.

    • Mary, um…restricted *to whom*? JSTOR is open to professors and students at universities.

      While I’m not in academia myself, if I really need to get a JSTOR article, I can go to a university library and ask for help and generally get it.

      A common workaround I see on Twitter all the time and one used by Evgeny Morozov is to post the link of an article someone needs and ask a student to get it for them. I’ve never heard of JSTOR punishing this one-off use of an article here or there.

      What Swartz did was steal 4 million files in order to smash the system and make it impossible for a university to have *choice* in their business and distribution models, whether they wanted to have a pay wall or a walled garden. It imposed on them the technocommunist diktat of “liberation” and “sharing”.

      What’s the use case for this usage? The non-university person who needs to read articles in academic journals that the professors haven’t already posted on their own websites (many of them do, and do so without any copyleftist ideology and did so long before Swartz did what his friends and even family chose to see as a suicide bombing attack on behalf of an ideological cause).

      That human community you claim you are serving, dying for JSTOR journal articles, doesn’t exist, and even if it does, you are doing it a disservice by your coercive ideology.

      • Catherine Here is an example of important research by a doctoral student. What makes this so serious is that the research confirmed earlier research except that it was more rigorous.

        I live in Oregon, and a terrible cancer rate in West Salem brings this home strongly for me.

        This situation at Harvard with Elise Bassiin’s research brings another incident to mind.

        Joseph Biederman was a Key Opinion Leader who wanted to diagnose and treat with medications severe and chronic mental illness in children. When a four-year old girl died of an overdose, Sen. Charles Grassley became involved, and Biederman’s way of working came under intense scrutiny.

        It turns out the pharmaceutical companies were paying him large amounts of money that he was not reporting to the I.R.S. In the stories I read about this, even the pharma reps themselves felt intimidated by Biederman.

        This case is not the only one in this species of case. Other well-respected institutions have been caught out on this.

        Conflict-of-interest among people with a lot of power, the KOL’s (Key Opinion Leaders) is running rampant, and they use their positions of power to assert old beliefs that are undercut by new research.

        The issue of retractions has been discussed on NPR. It is not some wild theory of mine that the science community does not know about. The best workers in the health trades know that a lot of harm goes down when belief-based practice continues beyond the time when new information is known and has been replicated.

        It was in character for Aaron to see this as urgent. JSTOR workers were likely also aware. The ones who did not get this and kept this suit on were probably unaware of the enormity of this and of the widespread knowledge concerning it. Anyway, that is my conjecture from what I know up to now.

        The President of MIT was a professor before he became President in 2012. He has appointed an investigator who is likely to be productive, another MIT professor.

        I do not think MIT is going to let anybody pay a big donation to make this go away. MIT’s branding is open. Damage to that brand is going to motivate a lot of people inside MIT.

      • That Washington Post article carefully avoided giving any information (like numbers) that would let the reader do any evaluating of their own, but sometimes “an increased risk” and “not statistically different” can refer to the exact same thing.

        Technically a 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% greater chance of something can be considered “an increased risk”.

        Without more information we have no way of knowing if there’s any “there” there.


      • onlyiamunitron I am interpreting your reply to me as a request for more information.

        Here is an example.

        When lobbyists camped inside at Portland City Hall and got the Council to vote to add fluoride to Portland’s water, in spite of many votes by Portlanders against this over the years, they caused a sophisticated and dedicated cohort to do serious research on the issue.

        What we found shocked many of us to the core.

        A spill of this stuff eats through concrete and requires haz-mat suits to clean up.

        To transport this in active-ground-movement Portland, over bridges, is wildly irresponsible.

        Then to subject salmon to it, through sewage? I cannot imagine a more wasteful and neglectful way to reduce value and culture here.

        We could give children in need careful medical and dental attention for the cost of this crony-enriching scheme. That this was not considered is unspeakable.

        Athletes and diabetics are at greater risk from fluoridated water because they drink more water and consequently their doses are higher. This is a cumulative toxin. It is not a nutrient according to any reputable study ever done. Certain people repeat a belief that it is a nutrient, as if it were true. It is not. If you do the careful research to try to find such a study, you will not find it.

        What you can find instead are the lawsuits to cover the loss of animals poisoned by fluoride pollution, but the suits have been settled quietly over the years, with gag orders. This has been standard in the U.S. for many toxic substances.

        This is how I found out the the Harvard chairman of the department, who signed Elise Bassin’s thesis, then tried to bury it and to keep it out of reach of the Environmental Working Group and others working to warn U.S. people of this risk.

        Aaron may well have known of other cases of this sort of thing, and if so, it is no wonder he felt a sense of urgency.

        U.S. brand is already damaged by the widely known scandal of our incarceration rate. Aaron’s story is going around and around the planet. When it stops, nobody knows.

        It is another horror tale of corruption in the U.S. and the terrible erosion of equity and human rights. The people who hounded Aaron will themselves be hounded. This justice works slowly, sometimes, but it works over a long run.

      • You should have interpreted it as a criticism of the WaPo article for lacking information.

        Does the possible harm caused by floridation of the water outweigh the benefit of reduced tooth decay?

        I don’t know, and this article didn’t provide any data to further my education on the subject.

        It just told me there’s a controversy.

        It covered the sizzle and left out the steak.


  280. Thank you for writing this. Blasting it all over the internet where I can. Hopefully the MIT students will overload the system with legal downloads in protest. And the AUSA will revisit her thoughts on why she went to law school in the first place. It could not have been to persecute the innocent into suicide.

  281. He probably broke all sorts of data protection/computer misuse laws.

    What’s more, his institutions reputation in the community has probably been destroyed as they were given access to lots of free content, as they were trusted not to misuse it, then one of their students just went in and took it all.

    You know, 50 years for this stuff is stupid, but only as stupid as claiming he did nothing illegal/wrong.

    The truth is somewhere in the middle

  282. I just mean, most people, when they’re given logins, are given free access to lots of stuff on their companies/institutions networks.

    It doesn’t mean I can just download it all, and walk off with it

    It’s all protected by terms, conditions, and various misuse/data protection laws.

  283. Plus, also remember he was only able to get the data, as he accessed secure server rooms, and plugged direct into them, so he could bypass all of the institutions security.

    That’s probably illegal on it’s own. It’s why they put CCTV cameras in there

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  285. Plus, also remember that tuition fees fund the content. And the students are given access to content in return.

    Calling it “public money” is a bit misleading. Universities are self sufficient. They charge students for a service for 4 years, and then give it to them.

    JSTORT allows institutions to deposit the content they’ve bought, on behalf of their students, into a central bank, so that other students can share it.

    You know, it’s a good thing. They don’t have to do it.

    I felt the attack was just a bit self defeating personally.

    JSTORT will only be allowed to host the content, in the first place, on the basis of trust. As in, they’re trusted to only give access to respected institutions.

    And MIT would only give access to students, on the condition of trust. As in, they trust them to not misuse the system they have signed up to.

    I just mean, if these voluntary systems are misused, and hacked, the minute they’re started, why is anyone going to bother pursuing them.

    It’s just self defeating. Trying to go from one extreme (heavily copyrighted content) to the other (free for all)

    It’s just going to justify publishers claims that they have to protect their content heavily, otherwise it will get hacked and distributed everywhere

  286. The sniff test, people. Calling it a conspiracy or saying he was murdered does not pass it. There’s no strong motivation. In fact, amusingly, you can go through the same logical though process the authors here did. Many similar arguments could be made about the big bad murderers. They have very little to gain. They’ve been very open with their displeasure. They could ‘win’ by doing nothing. They could only lose by perpetrating such actions. We can be displeased with the events and with Mr. Swartz’s death, but hokey theories actually seem to belittle his actions to me.

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  289. You’ve got to be kidding me Alex, impartial says the EFF schill? MITs wifi doesnt carry a ToS? He didn’t take steps to hide himself? How much of your argument equates to “the door was unlocked so it was okay to take the tv?”

    Besides, iSEC and probably you destroyed the evidence on EFFs mail servers a couple years back, the only thing you classify as an expert in is hubris and perhaps cross-eyedness.

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  291. Talk about prosecutorial overreach. In Russia, they demand only three years for “hooliganism with intention to incite religious hatred” for Pussyriot actions. Aaron was threatened with 35.

    • In America, prosecutors don’t have leeway to reduce the maximum penalty for an alleged crime. Thus everyone is “threatened” with the maximum penalties when they are defendants in criminal cases, even if there is no likelihood at all of receiving the maximum. I’m not sure how it’s done in Russia, but it’s likely similar.

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  299. Reblogged this on A Garden of Delights and commented:
    I seem to be reblogging more than writing, but given the topic of this wonderfully comprehensive post, maybe that makes sense more than not. It’s a tragedy, all the worse because it’s still a question to some…

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  306. Pingback: 【資訊人權貴】美國司法部如何追殺資訊自由化推手 Aaron Swartz | TechOrange《 專訪與人物 |

  307. I have deleted a handful of posts that pushed the conversation into Godwin territory. Out of respect to Aaron’s ethos I am happy to allow for free flowing discussion, even if that means that strangers with no grasp of the issues declare me incompetent, a paid shill (we were paid nothing for this work) or part of some conspiracy with the EFF. I will not, however, allow conspiracy theories tied to Aaron’s ethnicity or anything else that attracts a Stormfront crowd. Thank you for keeping it civil.

    • My apologies if I accidently, and certainly unintentionally, “went there”.

      Until JohnO responded to my response to his Martin-Niemöller quote I hadn’t given Aaron’s religion/ethnicity/whatever the first thought, and I don’t see how it would have anything to do with his activities or alleged activities or any of the charges against him.


      (who can’t get WordPress to let him use his usual screen name)

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  310. Pingback: Justice System ‘Overreach Blamed in Suicide of Open-Access Technology Activist | My Blog

    • Entering a baseless petition doesn’t bring suicides back from the dead. There is no “abuse of power” in a prosecutor bringing charges– it’s the nature of the job. It would be good to separate hysteria from the facts. Skewed vitriol honors no one.

      • I do not find it at all surprising the legs this has. I got notice from a site in India. This is going arouna and around the planet.

        We have a polarised situation with ambitious prosecutors using fine print tactics from the bad-golden-rule (he who has gold makes the rules). This is the status quo.

        It may not seem a big deal to those who benefit, but it is a big deal for those who feel at risk.

        Powerful people seem seldom to understand the depth of effect this has on those they pick on. Powerful people think of themselves as nice guys, with good friends in the circles they run in. I can understand that the particular people who exercised power in this case had no idea what was going to happen and that their friends feel compelled to rise to their defense.

        The POTUS talked a line about transparency to get in, both times Given the choices, it worked twice. The other choices had far less credibility on this axis.

        On the ground, after that talk the first time, the FBI filmed peace meetings while BP was on criminal probation. BP was unsupervised when the Macondo well blew. We have the expertise to have supervised. It did not happen. The government had other priorities. People on that rig had tried to warn of the danger. To what avail? To whom could the line-workers appeal?

        We have a situation with banks where fines are like parking tickets compared to the amounts big banks have garnered from the the spigot-turners and special-privilege dispensers who camp out and spend lavishly in D.C.

        Bradley Manning is a glaring example much on the mind of those who think about basic human decency in this world and what happens to those who see abuse and feel compelled to do something about it.

        I admire the lawlerly writing of those who think too much is being made of Aaron’s situation. I appreciate fine points and discussion.

        As for excusing prosecutorial behavior, this train of thought is going to appeal to a narrow band of the population.

        These arguments will fan the flame with everybody else.

        MIT has to do something about damage to its out-there-and-open brand. I do not believe MIT will behave the way Harvard has behaved when its powerful decision-makers get caught. MIT is more about nuts and bolts and figuring out causes. My guess is all the laundry is going to go on the table.

        Maybe this is just what I hope.

        This is a weighty problem set for universities in general.

        To dismiss it as a one-off is not going to fly with the various stakeholders involved, including students and their tuition-paying familes.

        The only college guide I know of that warns parents about suicide was that of Thomas Sowell many years ago, but college administrations are aware of this. Some parents specifically ask, and some colleges tell parents at greet-the-parents events.

        The issue of suicide is a pressing issue in the U.S., not just among students who go to college, but in families whose children go into the military.

        Dismissing a case as a one-off does not let us face the statistics that a lot of stakeholders are upset about.

        I doubt Aaron understood what would happen. I do think he knew about the U.S. incarceration rate and the situations he could have been exposed to. The Bradley Manning case gets more coverage from news sources Aaron would have used.

        As Hilary Clinton recently noted, many U.S. people go elsewhere for news, away from on-shore sources. The people who do this want perspectives other than those of the U.S. government and its closest friends and relatives.

        Pardon me, I used the word “want” above. I do not think that was strong enough. I should have used the word “need.”

      • iOCOUNU,

        This is about the abuse of prosecutorial discretion, a well known phenomenon. Prosecutors in the US, and globally for that matter, have policies that are supposed to shape their decision making in launching charges. You would have to have been living under a rock to not be aware of the fact that they don’t adhere to those policies, but are beholden to other interests. This applies to the most minor of vagrancy type crimes upwards. They overcharge so they have bargaining power to plea down. Most innocent people plead guilty as a result of this, to crimes they havn’t committed.

      • Adele, you don’t know what you’re talking about. The case was not overcharged; there are no lesser versions of the alleged offenses to charge, as Orin Kerr’s analysis points out. There is no “abuse of prosecutorial discretion” in the case either. As an attorney, I’m good at sorting out the BS from the valid, so I don’t hold anything in your post against you; but someday you would do well to find out more about legal issues if you intend to weigh in on them.

        In reality the charges were valid. Even if it were possible for there to be “abuse of prosecutorial discretion” in this case, there wouldn’t have been any. The alternative to bringing the charges was to let Swartz off scot-free after he intentionally avoided safeguards at JSTOR and MIT to download a massive amount of JSTOR’s pay-for content, in order to release it for free and cripple or destroy JSTOR as a going concern. Being a well-liked internet activist doesn’t imply a get-out-of-jail-free card; sometimes there are consequences to behavior that one should weigh prior to taking action.

      • Iucounu’s interpretation of Aaron’s intent, viz “to download a massive amount of JSTOR’s pay-for content, in order to release it for free and cripple or destroy JSTOR as a going concern” is complete rubbish and is not in the slightest supported by the facts.

        I WAS THERE. I WORKED AT JSTOR during this period. I SAW THE LOGS. JSTOR wasn’t worried aabout being crippled or destroyed. They were annoyed at having a couple of servers “melt down” from Aaron’s stupidly designed curl scripts. They were more annoyed that MIT didn’t help.

        Stop making shit up. You don’t know his intent. I don’t know his intent. What we do know, WHAT THE FACTS say, is that JSTOR didn’t press charges. AND, JSTOR moved more in the direction that Aaron was advocating for — free access to public-domain content.

      • I’m an attorney too. And I’ve done lots of criminal defense, and to have a client charged with four felony counts at the outset, on July 14, 2011 – and then over a year later, on September 12, 2012, nine additional counts are added on, and you’re saying that’s neither abusive nor an attempt at coercion? You must be out of your everloving mind. What kind of law do you practice, anyhow? Intellectual Property law?

      • And while you’re at it: You haven’t seen the evidence. You don’t know that Aaron Swartz was guilty, do you? And he’s innocent until evidence has been presented at trial and the defense has had an opportunity to present expert testimony, to present witnesses and cross-examine prosecution witnesses, and a jury has found him to be guilty of each element of each charge Beyond A Reasonable Doubt and that he had the requisite criminal intent on each element of each charge. Anything less than that, and he’s innocent. Up until the jury makes his decision, he’s innocent. Really and truly innocent, and for you to represent yourself as an attorney and make such a statement is really a bit incredible.

      • streamfortyseven, it is hard to believe from what you’ve written that you are in fact a working attorney. I do criminal defense. There is no abuse of prosecutorial discretion here, though that term is bandied about in some contexts (that don’t imply anything illegal was done).

        Here, the alternative to the charges was to let the defendant off scot-free for attempting to destroy the business model of JSTOR. There is no real argument that Swartz committed the acts he allegedly committed. It’s clear that he did circumvent attempts to cut off his access, as Kerr’s analysis points out– check it out sometime, right down to the face-shielding retrieval of the new laptop Swartz used, hooking it up in a closet after his access was cut off. The only question when it comes to guilt is the legal characterization of those actions.

        I’m shocked that you don’t realize that we’re not in court here. In no way am I required to presume that Aaron Swartz was innocent. The fact of his actual guilt or innocence is not the presumption of innocence he’s entitled to. In my opinion, no reasonable, unbiased person could fail to conclude that Swartz committed the alleged acts, and it’s clear that he did so with the motive to release the information for free. Since the case will now sadly never be tried, we will have to wait for another case on similar facts to explore the legality of those actions under the relevant law.

        In the meantime, hopefully the Aaron’s Law movement gains more traction and useful changes are made. In this case, only a half-tutored baboon would suppose that Aaron Swartz really faced the maximum penalty, but changes still clearly need to be made.

      • I am a Lawyer and have worked in criminal defence and prosecutions in Australia. Irrespective of where you are in the world, there are always overzealous prosecutors who, as steamfortyseven points out throw the book at defendants, whether it be at the state or federal level. I don’t believe that the culture is much different from country to country. Yes, I read the legal analysis of the charges by an author who described them as “overlapping” somewhat. As steamfortyseven points out, you get a client off and there is always payback. I had a client come back on 88 counts of break and enters in a few months. Do I really believe he committed 88? No. You are in denial if you don’t believe that Prosecutors don’t have political and other personal considerations in mind. I have seen it from both sides of the fence.

      • Nobody threw the book at Aaron Swartz. What happened is charges were brought, which of course involved certain maximum penalties due to the structure of the law; a plea agreement was pursued entailing 6 months’ imprisonment, which Swartz chose to reject; and the matter was scheduled for trial, which he chose to escape through suicide. It is a sad case, but Swartz hopefully was aware that he had a chance to win at trial, as well as that there was not even a remote likelihood of the maximum penalties being imposed, as well as his chance to appeal any unfair sentence.

      • Iucounu

        I saw the indictment and the charges, including some of the case law which was said to be applicable. The charges, as described, seemed tenuous and he was entitled to reject a plea agreement. There is discretion in charging, there is discretion in sentencing even within the federal plea bargaining procedure. (apologies for duplicate posting above). Do you have a Federal Prosecutions policy which refers to public interest considerations? Most policies I have read also have something to say about charging for several offences where one covers substantially the same ground.

      • Riiight, charlesroth– you’re totally believable, because YOU SAW THE LOGS. Back here in reality, JSTOR only called for leniency after leaning on Swartz to give over the hard drives with the data he’d taken, with his promise not to disseminate it or do so again. They clearly don’t care one whit about the destruction of their business model; and Aaron’s intent to do so has nothing to do with the case either. I see what you did there.

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  343. Alex: Thanks for your explanation of your findings. The Aaron I knew was not a heinous thief and hacker Ortiz and Heymann portrayed. I highly doubt the DOJ is ever going to do any soul searching, because they lack a soul in the first place. The loss of Aaron’s potential contributions are unmeasurable. We will miss him.

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  350. The amount of hysteria triggered by this case is startling, even given Swartz’s status as an activist beloved by many digerati for his stance and outspokenness. Among the skewed facts being parroted back and forth between the faithful:

    1. The information he accessed was “free” (Chris Hayes for example stated that ). In fact JSTOR charges for access to its content, though it now offers a small amount for free to registered users. The fact that a university may license it for access by those it approves for such access in no way makes the content free– it’s just paid for by the university.

    2. The alleged crimes were in the nature of checking books out of the library (David Segal of Demand Progress, which Swartz co-founded, claimed the prosecution was “like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library”).

    3. Aaron Swartz faced 35 years in jail and a $1 million fine, and thus the prosecution was vastly overblown. This particular inaccuracy is furthered by this very article by Swartz’s paid expert. In reality the prosecution offered a plea deal involving 6 months of incarceration, which Swartz chose not to take, as was his right. In reality U.S. Attorney Ortiz stated that she would recommend six months of incarceration pursuant to any such deal.

    And it is no less important that the maximum penalties imposable under a charge are not changeable by the prosecution, who have a duty to bring charges that they think are well-founded in the public interest. The vast majority of criminal statutes have a range of penalties; it’s simply inaccurate to report the maximum penalty as that which an infraction will likely receive if the accused is found guilty. Here, even if Swartz had been found guilty at trial, he almost certainly would never have received the maximum penalty, especially as judges use guidelines in imposing sentences and Swartz could have appealed if his judge were so insane as to impose 35 years in prison, which the prosecution would never have recommended.

    It’s important to look past the hype if accuracy is desired. It can just be a little tougher with a figure who is idolized by so many. I am sure that Swartz would not have wanted martyrdom based on inaccuracies, if martyrdom he is to receive.

    • You previously stated that you practiced law, and yet you don’t seem to know that a judge doesn’t have to follow a plea bargain as to sentencing? Have you ever represented a client in a criminal case before, where they’ve taken a plea offer? The judge will tell your client that the court is not bound by the plea agreement, the judge will also tell your client that they have no right to appeal the finding of guilty by the court, and that the court may set any sentence it pleases, taking mitigating and aggravating factors into account… And I’ve seen judges (rarely) ignore plea agreements as to sentencing and put people away for a long time. It does happen. For you to state otherwise means either that you don’t have much experience in criminal defense, or are being rather disingenuous.

      • Thanks for your effort to attempt to school me in the law. It helps to use the law itself rather than a synopsis of the law by another attorney, to wit:

        “(3) Judicial Consideration of a Plea Agreement.

        (A) To the extent the plea agreement is of the type specified in Rule 11(c)(1)(A) or (C), the court may accept the agreement, reject it, or defer a decision until the court has reviewed the presentence report.

        (B) To the extent the plea agreement is of the type specified in Rule 11(c)(1)(B), the court must advise the defendant that the defendant has no right to withdraw the plea if the court does not follow the recommendation or request.

        (4) Accepting a Plea Agreement. If the court accepts the plea agreement, it must inform the defendant that to the extent the plea agreement is of the type specified in Rule 11(c)(1)(A) or (C), the agreed disposition will be included in the judgment.

        (5) Rejecting a Plea Agreement. If the court rejects a plea agreement containing provisions of the type specified in Rule 11(c)(1)(A) or (C), the court must do the following on the record and in open court (or, for good cause, in camera):

        (A) inform the parties that the court rejects the plea agreement;

        (B) advise the defendant personally that the court is not required to follow the plea agreement and give the defendant an opportunity to withdraw the plea; and

        (C) advise the defendant personally that if the plea is not withdrawn, the court may dispose of the case less favorably toward the defendant than the plea agreement contemplated.”

        So it’s a bit tricky – basically the prosecutor has some discretion in drafting a plea and asking for a particular sentence but the judge can reject that agreement and the case either goes to trial with Defendant withdrawing his plea, or the judge can ignore the plea agreement and impose whatever sentence he feels is appropriate under the guidelines.

      • Taking a plea bargain means you give up your right to a trial. If one believes one’s own innocence, then having this right bullied away from you because of the threat of life-destroying penalties, is a bad mark on all those who came up with charges. Charges that DO allow for some amount of interpretation.

        The question then is how to make those that levied said interpretation pay for making such mistakes in the public eye. For the public to seek resignation at some level of the chain of command is at least one such way correcting institutional incentives.

      • There is no “bullying away” the right to a trial in the U.S. It is absolute. In fact, the less reasonable the offer by the prosecution, the more likely a defendant is to go to trial; it’s the opposite of such bullying.

      • Although the right on paper of a trial is never removed, we operate in a world of incentives, and there is definitely “bullying away” the choice of any sane person choosing a trial as you increase the severity of punishment.

        The economics of plea-bargaining, and the myriad of problems that go along with it has been written about extensively in the literature. This is part and parcel of a bigger problem of sentencing in general in the USA.

        Click to access Savitsky_PleaBargaining.pdf

  351. Iucounu,

    I am a lawyer and have worked in criminal defence and in prosecutions and I know the culture, which I do not believe varies considerably from state to federal or country to country for that matter. As steamfortyseven points out, any lawyer, criminal or civil, knows that speaking abstractly about matters, particularly criminal charges, being proven in court, is rather absurd without witnesses including expert witnesses, admissible evidence, and testimony from the defendant if they are put on the stand. There is always “payback”. I had a client who was acquitted for break and enters, and came back three months later with 68 counts of break and enter. Do you really think he committed all 88? No, I am not from the US. However I have read some legal analysis of the “overlapping” charges and even in the abstract, which is kind of meaningless, it appears that there was a fair degree of zealousness. I have seen it myself working amongst Prosecutors. There are other political and often personal considerations involved.

    Adele Pace

    • You seem to have posted under two different identities, as “serendipitously” and “Adele Pace”. Zealousness should be exerted by both the prosecution and defense; the American system of jurisprudence depends on the assumption that this will occur. Charges may be pled in the alternative, just as defenses may be. Here, the alternative to prosecutions such as Swartz’s is that internet activists would be able to commit all sorts of mischief without consequence.

      • Iuconnu,

        So now you are conceding that there was zealousness. I thought that Prosecutors were supposed to be professionals. Were the charges laid in the alternative? It appears as if there is also some admission from you that the mischief or evil that was moving the DOJ was “internet activists able to commit all sorts of mischief without consequence”. Is that a tacit admission that the DOJ goes after activists? Maybe the same types of activists who lobby against censorship legislation (COICA, SOPA, PIPA).

        Adele Pace Melbourne Australia

      • Adele Pace, the fact that you’ve posted under two identities makes me suspicious that you have posted under more. Twisting words doesn’t win arguments, at least against real opposition. My already-written words stand perfectly well as a refutation of your last post.

        I will not “debate” with a person whose dozens of posts make her intent perfectly clear, who will not admit that there was any possible basis to the charges, who posts under multiple identities, and who twists the words of others. Sorry, but there are too many internet trolls to address them all; and you are one.

      • Iucounu,

        My blog is I used an old wordpress blog once, and then used the Facebook option. So what if I made my comments anonymously or under my own name? Any such posting was at most an error. However I have a right to post anonymously do I not. I didn’t say the charges were without foundation. I said from what I have read, from legal analysis of American ‘attornies’, they seemed to be suggesting that they were tenuous. I was just pointing out that in response to public interest considerations, you raised “internet activism”. I was just curious but you don’t have to reply. After all, the right to freedom of speech includes the right not to listen or respond I guess.

        Adele Pace, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia BA, LLB, LLM, University of Melbourne.

      • Iucounu,

        “you are an internet troll” addressed to Adele Pace

        Thank you for proving my point Iucounu.

        Did your IT forensics people give relevant admissible testimony to you which would substantiate this bald assertion you have made to any degree of proof? Was I given a right of response? Did you subpoena the website administrator for records relating to my identity? If you make bald assertions like this to the effect that you ‘just know’ something, I feel some sympathy for your clients, and for others you ‘just know’ committed crimes let alone the deceased whom you have chosen to pass judgement upon, without any need to substantiate your position with facts and evidence to any standard. It sounds more like kindergarten school time than Ockham’s razor coupled with rigourous legal & evidentiary analysis.

        True, the adversarial system relies on two sides debating their case theory and zealously putting forth evidence when trying to persuade the arbiter of fact to accept their case theory and discharge their burden or proof, as opposed to a view that smacks of ‘X is guilty’ or Y is troll type of thinking which is a little unscientific and just won’t fly in a court of law.

        Adele Pace

      • For what it’s worth, Iucounu, I’m Hudson H Luce, admitted in Kansas (2002) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (2003). Now, I might ask, who are you, and where are you admitted to practice? I post here as “streamfortyseven” because I’m using my WordPress account – same as Adele on one occasion…

  352. Attitudes on assertions of property rights on life forms and information have become predictive of where humans fall in class and quality of life. People who have a lot of resources often take this for granted. The exceptions can be instructive.

    The U.S. right now has an epidemic of humans who are in a nothing-left-to-lose state of mind, from their own judgement of their niche or lack of one. Some radical activity takes the form of putting a garden in one’s front yard, for subsistence. People have been hounded and threatened with jail for doing this.

    The lack of compassion in enforcing fine-print, obscure rules tends to go around the world on the net, with much interest everywhere on how to deal with this.

    Pushback surges in interesting ways.

    Both sides in the battle depend on the internet. Individuals from both sides know a lot about how the net works and where its vulnerabilities are. When MIT’s website had problems, surely this incident catapaulted into the “can’t buy a gag order” category, but I expect the highest decision-makers would have known this anyway. A change of administration happened in the course of this litigation. How that change affected this is an interesting research path in itself.

    Publishing is changing rapidly. The highest decision-makers at MIT and JSTOR know this. The decision to stop the prosecutors may not have rested with either institution. JSTOR is a small operation, relatively. JSTOR tried to stop it, and the decision was likely made at the top.

    This kind of prosecution is going on in other areas. In food, it has truly been a disaster for small farmers and small providers. Raw Foods is a case in point on this facet. A 65-year old man was “lost in the system” from his friends and family, from easily accessed information on the web.

    People working for change know about this pattern of picking on little people and that little people often fade from attention quickly.

    MIT is a huge and complicated place. A decision to let this suit keep going does not sound like a decision that was made at the top, to me. The research on this will take a while and will be watched around the world with fascination. MIT has searched the world for people who are interested in small areas of research. The work ethic requires obsession with particular problems and their solutions.

    I read a posting on a shoe-throwing video site once where a commenter from North Africa said he would hate the U.S. except for all the free stuff he found on-line from MIT.

    Adele brings a fresh perspective to the discussions. Her contributions showcase the reasons this story will not die. It is not about one publishing company in one little place. The ramifications for top-down, no-recourse everything are serious.

    Will new research hit smashwords as soon as the ink dries on committee signatures? If it is about health advances, it should, but we will have to see about when.

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  354. Maybe if prosecutorial misconduct was a crime punishable by 10x the proposed punishment of the alleged offender, fewer prosecutors would stick their necks out. Clearly, i this case, the charges did not meet the deed and according to Alex’s statements in this article it is possible that no crime was even committed!

    I will absolutely say that I have seen prosecutors overreach, especially when dealing with younger and potentially less informed people. While talking with one defense attorney he told me in no uncertain terms that the prosecutors in a certain district really try to throw the book at teenagers when they get caught with the hopes that they will plea to a lesser crime without having to go to court.

    I will just mention something that all of us should be aware of – and that is the “FULLY INFORMED JURY ORGANIZATION” – … They inform you that, as a juror, you have the RIGHT to judge NOT ONLY THE defendant but to JUDGE THE LAW as well. I highly recommend everyone spend some time reading these pages and passing them along to others who would not otherwise realize this. This is the “ultimate” power of the people to curb the government’s trampling of our rights!

  355. The Prosecutor holds a public office, and Prosecutors are elected public officials. It is a question of whether Prosecutors should have been charging “Internet activists” Aaron in this manner. A perception by the public that persons are selectively prosecuted doesn’t inspire confidence in the justice system in the minds of the public.

    • “The Prosecutor holds a public office, and Prosecutors are elected public officials.”

      In the United States, federal prosecutors are appointed.

      The only elective federal offices are President, Vice-President, Senator, and Representative.

      Unless you want to be extremely exact and substitute one’s state’s Electors on the Electoral College for the first two offices I mentioned.


      • No federal elections for Prosecutors, of course not. But in the States they are elected, I am told, by a person from Seattle. I am talking about prosecutorial discretion in general and a lot of low level abuses occur at the State level.

    • In the US, the US Attorneys are appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate, and serve a four year term. Carmen Ortiz is an Obama appointee. Assistant US Attorneys are appointed by the Attorney General, himself appointed by the President, also for terms of four years, and may be removed or terminated by the Attorney General. To the best of my knowledge, both AUSA Stephen Heymann and AUSA Scott Garland were appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder, and it is up to him to remove or terminate them. See

  356. As this persecution went on, others were persecuted as well. Here is another example of what can happen.

    Stories of abuse in prisons are rampant, on the internet, in the movies, and sometimes even in the old-style news.

    For those who assert that this is no big deal, I have this to say: really? Do you really think you are safe from having the federal government turn on you? What if a competitor planted contraband on you?

    Politicians in Birmingham, AL, arranged with federal favorites to do federally mandated infrastructure projects. The corporate-crony favorites walked. The local politicians got time.

    Then there is the 5th-year engineering student in southern California who got locked up and forgotten for 5 days by the DEA. He had to go in Intensive Care for kidney damage after no food or water over that time.

    Those with power most often harm little people, but once in a while people with resources get caught in the maw of an arbitrary, capricious, and foot-dragging system.

    Bullying geeks is not a funny little frat-boy prank that has no repercussions beyond the hurt to one person.

    In the U.S., when a bully picks a victim, he just cannot be sure how it is going to turn out, even if the bully has a lot of gold and expects to come out on top for that reason. An exception to the rule can come up on the wheel. These prosecutors dialed in a wild card.

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  359. Thank you. Just the sort of well informed in depth lucid info that I have been seeking. Although now I am even more deeply sad. How …words fail me…..BAD it was for them to frame it as they did. I shared this on Facebook. Rest in Peace, wonderful Aaron. We love you and will continue your work.

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  361. Pingback: Aaron Swartz and plea bargaining « The Reality-Based Community

  362. On the plea bargain offer: It was outrageously coercive. He was threatened with losing most of his living years if he did not take it. Do not tell me they only really wanted to put him away for 6 months. That simply doesn’t matter. If I point a gun at your head and demand you hand over your sneakers, do you forgive me for the gun because all I really wanted was the sneakers? Of course not. These tactics are immoral.

  363. Pingback: Shame on MIT + America’s Justice System | i*Harper*Se

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  372. What I find horribly disconcerting is that several people close to this case have stated that initially this was an MIT Police matter. Then the FEDS were called in and AFTER that, the Secret Service. And yet no one on this blog or forum dares to ask the question…..WHY the Secret Service? Isn’t it the Secret Services duty to PROTECT THE PRESIDENT and to investigate and prosecute crimes for conterfeiting money? Isn’t that their main objectives in their job as Secret Service agents?

    Since when do they “investigate” copyright infringement and college hacking issues?


    Was Aaron at any time before, during or after his arrest, thought to be countefeiting money??


    Then he was obviously doing something that would cause the President to be put in immediate danger, right?? Otherwise, why would the Secret Service have been involved??

    Why won’t anyone ask the HARD questions here? Why is everyone buying into the “suicide”
    rhetoric so easily? How does someone with a 30 inch waist loop his belt over his head, throw
    it across ANYTHING and loop it again and still have enough belt leftover with which to actually
    HANG himself?

    The corporate wh**e media has already determined that this was a suicide before it had ever
    been investigated. All stations, All “journalists” All agreed, simultaneously, it was a suicide.

    Not one “journalist” asked any questions. Accepted this at face value. No questions.
    None of them.

    How on earth is it that there are dozens of primetime news stations and hundreds of
    so called journalists, and they ALL HAVE THE SAME OPINION and ALL SAY THE
    EXACT SAME WORDS with nary a conflict between any of them? Ever??

    Jon Rappaport summed it up in an article he wrote called the Flicker Effect, but it
    sickens me to death to continually see people still buying whatever the telly sells you.

    Poor Aaron….

    • Okay…. you’re getting a little bit silly here. There may be something to say about a lazy fourth estate, but not taking everything they say at face value doesn’t lead directly to smoking anything at hand and considering wild conspiracy theories.

      That doesn’t help anyone at all.

      Skinny kids hang themselves all the time. Its tragic.

      There is nothing remarkable about suicide here; this is a young man plagued with a history of depression who was being bullied by the government which is supposed to serve justice and not petty political ambition. That’s tragic. You don’t need to take that into some weird place where where are big, hard questions to ask — the hard questions have been asked, and many of us find the answers seriously wanting.

      Also: your understanding of the duties and involvement of the Secret Service are seriously lacking. They have long had many responsibilities beyond just protecting the President, even before 9/11 and the PATRIOT act shifted them from the Treasury Department to DHS.

      In particular, they take a large role in major frauds and financial crimes — and since 9/11 — have taken a major role in electronic crimes. This pre-dates 9/11, but became more significant after that. This has absolutely nothing to do with their separate protection duties. The Secret Service being involved doesn’t mean that there is anything even vaguely threatening to the President: it never has. Their duties have *never* — since the inception of the agency — been centered solely around protection. That is an anomaly of history and politics, their core purpose was always investigation of counterfeiting and financial fraud and similar crimes. Then it evolved into an agency who which had domestic counterintelligence duties…. Then…etc. Exactly what a law enforcement agency does actually shifts over time. (Check out the US Marshals, its an interesting history)

      It shouldn’t be surprising at all that Secret Service agents would be involved in what the government is treating as a major hacking event with major financial implications, claiming millions potentially lost. That’s their job. That falls under their responsibilities. There is no grand conspiracy here with them in the picture.

      The tragedy is far simpler and far more clear. An overzealous prosecution — *perhaps* with a leading bias against the young man based on his previous activism which ran afoul of the justice department — simply treated what should have been a relatively minor crime as if it were a grand and severe one.

      One should not assign conspiracy and malice where incompetence and pettiness can more easily answer the questions you’re raising.

  373. we don’t forget

    I didn’t know Aaron Swartz — in fact, I had never heard of him, despite the fact that his talent had given the world so many discoveries that help us in everyday life.
    The death of this poor American guy, will allow me to tell the whole world, on the Web, what happens in our country, Italy, that once observed the rule of law.
    I have never hacked into any network, I only posted a link to the site of one of the candidates in the local elections of my town, Greve in Chianti, Florence. It was nothing dangerous but I was charged with a criminal offense yet, like Aaron, I have been tried for aggravated defamation , prosecuted and given a significant sentence which, however, is not nearly as terrible as what might have happened to Aaron Swartz; he risked a serious sentence.
    Frightened by the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, the young talent, with a large number of “Internet friends”, but profoundly lonely and depressed, preferred to commit suicide and I, with the weight of my 64 years, understand him perfectly. There is nothing more depressing than being charged and eventually convicted for actions committed for the good of all.
    I will always remember this young guy, with his clean face and soul, because his death almost coincided with my sentence and upset me greatly; I want to dedicate my great suffering to him.
    On the website dedicated to the many memories of friends and strangers (, I read a beautiful post that I’d like to repeat and share: “Rest with the angels Aaron till we meet again. May God comfort your family and friends “.
    Beyond the above, I want to contribute to his memory. I plan to share the reasons for my sentence, starting with # Pdftribute.
    As long as I’m alive, I will continue to fight for freedom, freedom of ideas and the transparency of all information, legal and otherwise, regarding several individuals and to denounce, always and in any case, any kind of injustice or crime.
    Roberto Migno

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