Aaron Swartz arrested and charged for downloading JSTOR articles

Saturday, July 23, 2011

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Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz, a fellow at Harvard University's Center for Ethics and an open source programmer involved with creating the RSS 1.0 specification and more generally in the open culture movement, has been arrested and charged with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer after he entered a computer lab at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts and downloaded two-thirds of the material on JSTOR, an academic journal repository.

According to the indictment, Swartz is accused of sneaking a laptop into MIT, hooking it up as a guest on the MIT network, and then running a script to download files from JSTOR. After being caught, Swartz returned the hard drive containing the downloaded documents to JSTOR who intend not to pursue civil litigation against him, but he has been indicted by the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. He has been bailed on a $100,000 unsecured bond after pleading not guilty to all charges.

Swartz had previously downloaded around 20% of the U.S. Government's PACER database of court decisions, prompting the FBI to investigate his actions. In 2006, Swartz ran for the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees and also wrote an influential essay on "Who Writes Wikipedia?".

Following Swartz's indictment, Greg Maxwell, a contributor to Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, has published a torrent on The Pirate Bay containing 33Gb of papers from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society that were published before 1923 and are thus public domain in the United States, but previously only available at a cost from JSTOR.