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Internet Activist Commits Suicide Over Indictment 

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Old 01-12-2013, 08:24 PM
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Internet Activist Commits Suicide Over Indictment

http://www.washingtonpost.com/busine...dfa_story.html

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By Associated Press, Updated: Saturday, January 12, 2:42 PM

NEW YORK — A co-founder of Reddit and activist who fought to make online content free to the public has been found dead, authorities confirmed Saturday, prompting an outpouring of grief from prominent voices on the intersection of free speech and the Web.

Aaron Swartz, 26, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment weeks before he was to go on trial on accusations that he stole millions of journal articles from an electronic archive in an attempt to make them freely available. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.

He was pronounced dead Friday evening at home in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for New York’s chief medical examiner.

Swartz was “an extraordinary hacker and activist,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international nonprofit digital rights group based in California wrote in a tribute on its home page.

He “did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way,” the tribute said.

Swartz was a prodigy who as a young teenager helped create RSS, a family of Web feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users. He co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.

Among Internet gurus, Swartz was considered a pioneer of efforts to make online information freely available.

“Playing Mozart’s Requiem in honor of a brave and brilliant man,” tweeted Carl Malamud, an Internet public domain advocate who believes in free access to legally obtained files.

Swartz aided Malamud’s own effort to post federal court documents for free online, rather than the few cents per page that the government charges through its electronic archive, PACER. In 2008, The New York Times reported, Swartz wrote a program to legally download the files using free access via public libraries. About 20 percent of all the court papers were made available until the government shut down the library access.

The FBI investigated but did not charge Swartz, he wrote on his own website.

Three years later, Swartz was arrested in Boston and charged with stealing millions of articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prosecutors said he broke into a computer wiring closet on campus and used his laptop for the downloads.

Experts puzzled over the arrest and argued that the result of the actions Swartz was accused of was the same as his PACER program: more information publicly available.

The prosecution “makes no sense,” Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal said in a statement at the time. “It’s like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library.”

Swartz pleaded not guilty to charges including wire fraud. His federal trial was to begin next month.

According to a federal indictment, Swartz stole the documents from JSTOR, a subscription service used by MIT that offers digitized copies of articles from academic journals. Prosecutors said he intended to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites.

He faced 13 felony charges, including breaching site terms and intending to share downloaded files through peer-to-peer networks, computer fraud, wire fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer, and criminal forfeiture.

JSTOR did not press charges once it reclaimed the articles from Swartz, and some legal experts considered the case unfounded, saying that MIT allows guests access to the articles and Swartz, a fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics, was a guest.

Criticizing the government’s actions in the pending prosecution, Harvard law professor and Safra Center faculty director Lawrence Lessig called himself a friend of Swartz’s and wrote Saturday that “we need a better sense of justice. ... The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a ‘felon.’”

JSTOR announced this week that it would make “more than 4.5 million articles” publicly available for free.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Old 01-12-2013, 09:47 PM
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Re: Internet Activist Commits Suicide Over Indictment

I just read that today. What a pity. Said he faced years in prison and hefty fines. Just a kid.

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Old 01-12-2013, 11:37 PM
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Re: Internet Activist Commits Suicide Over Indictment

Quote:
Originally Posted by dean mclean View Post
JSTOR did not press charges once it reclaimed the articles from Swartz
I don't understand this sentence. How could digital content be "reclaimed"?

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Old 01-12-2013, 11:51 PM
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Re: Internet Activist Commits Suicide Over Indictment

As far as I know he was never able to upload anything. He just downloaded it and his computer was seized before any of it got out to file sharing sites. So upon seizure of his computer, it was "reclaimed" and no harm done to JSTOR.

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Old 01-13-2013, 10:10 AM
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Re: Internet Activist Commits Suicide Over Indictment

Too scared to go to prison I guess.

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Old 01-15-2013, 03:40 AM
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Re: Internet Activist Commits Suicide Over Indictment

Anonymous Attacks MIT, Justice Department

Part of the message used to deface MIT's website following the suicide of Web developer Aaron Swartz. CNET Screengrab/Public Domain
Quote:
Anonymous hacktivists angry over the prosecution and suicide of a prominent computer programmer and free-speech activist attacked the websites of the Department of Justice and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology yesterday (Jan. 13).

Aaron Swartz, 26, hanged himself Friday (Jan. 11) in his Brooklyn apartment. In April, Swartz would have begun trial in Boston over allegations that he had broken into MIT's network to download more than 4 million articles from JSTOR, an online repository of archived scientific and academic journals. Prosecutors dropped the charges today (Jan. 14).

"Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government's prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for," said an Anonymous statement posted on the MIT website yesterday and reproduced elsewhere.

JSTOR subscriptions can cost academic institutions tens of thousands of dollars per year. Swartz, who was 14 when he helped to develop the protocols for RSS readers, and later helped develop Reddit, had long argued that information in the public domain ought to be freely available.

JSTOR declined to press charges against Swartz, but the U.S. Department of Justice, with MIT's partial cooperation, indicted Swartz in July 2011 on four counts of wire fraud and computer hacking.

According to the New York Times' estimate, Swartz faced up to 35 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.

"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy," a statement by Swartz's family said Saturday (Jan. 12). "It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death."

As of 9:30 a.m. EST today, the MIT website was back up, as was the main Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov. An alternate Department of Justice site, www.doj.gov, was unreachable.
http://news.discovery.com/tech/gear-...rtz-130114.htm

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Old 01-15-2013, 09:30 AM
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Re: Internet Activist Commits Suicide Over Indictment

good riddence

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Old 01-16-2013, 02:44 AM
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Aaron Swartz, an Era Ends

Aaron Swartz the American computer programmer, blazing intellect & Internet activist was found hanged in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment. It’s been four days after the death of Aaron Swartz millions of strangers on the Internet are still mourning as if some essential part of them has died. For those of you who do not know about this digital innovator, this is a short recap of an era that has passed away:
Swartz was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 8, 1986. His father founded a software company, and from a young age Swartz was interested in computing. At the age of 14 Swartz was a member of the RSS-DEV Working Group that co-authored the "RSS 1.0" specification of RSS. Swartz attended Stanford University, but left after just one year & founded the software company Infogami, a company that merged with Reddit in its early days, through which he became an equal owner of the merged company. Swartz was significantly involved with a campaign to prevent the passing of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill that sought to monitor the Internet for copyright violations and would have made it easier for the U.S. government to shut down websites accused of violating copyright. These were his words in a speech in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2012:
“There's a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands... [Under SOPA], new technology, instead of bringing us greater freedom, would have snuffed out fundamental rights we'd always taken for granted.”
In late 2010 and early 2011, Swartz downloaded about 4 million of JSTOR's collection of academic journal articles — which provides a limited number of articles to students and researchers free of charge. Swartz was a faculty member at Harvard University which provided him with a JSTOR account. Over the course of a few weeks, he downloaded the documents from a network wiring closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, in the process, crashed some of JSTOR's servers. On January 6, 2011, as a result of a federal investigation, Swartz was arrested in connection with systematic downloading of academic journal....

Source

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Old 01-16-2013, 05:34 PM
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Re: Internet Activist Commits Suicide Over Indictment

Guy: "How come you're in prison?"
Swartz: "I got 35 years for downloading free files. You?"
Guy: "I got 4 years for driving drunk and killing someone."

Justice

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