Just hours after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pledged an investigation into its role in events leading up to the suicide of Aaron Swartz, online hacktivist group Anonymous defaced the school’s Web site.
Swartz, a Reddit cofounder who championed open access to documents on the Internet, committed suicide on Friday. The 26-year-old was arrested in July 2011 and accused of stealing 4 million documents from MIT and Jstor, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. He faced $4 million in fines and more than 50 years in prison if convicted.
After MIT President L. Rafael Reif issued a statement this afternoon promising a “thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present,” Anonymous targeted at least two MIT Web sites. Lacking the loose-knit group’s usual feisty language, the message posted on the Web site was a call for reform in the memory of the late Internet activist.
After calling the prosecution of Swartz “a grotesque miscarriage of justice” and “a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for,” Anonymous outlined its list of goals under a section reservedly labeled “Our wishes:”
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.
CNET has contacted MIT for comment on the apparent hacking and will update this report when we learn more.
Critics of the prosecutors in the case say the feds were unfairly trying to make an example out of Swartz. “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” Swartz’s family said in a statement released yesterday. “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.”
CNET has also contacted the U.S. Attorney’s office and will update this report when we hear back.
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. Before joining CNET News in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers. E-mail Steven.
In a tribute to Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide Friday, researchers have begun posting PDFs to Twitter to honor his campaign for open access.
Swartz, 26, had faced $4 million in fines and more than 50 years in prison for allegedly stealing 4 million documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jstor, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. The authorities claimed that he broke into a restricted-access computer wiring closet at MIT and accessed that network without authorization.
The PDF campaign was born out of a desire to honor Swartz’s memory and his battle for open access to documents on the Internet, said Micah Allen, a researcher in the fields of brain plasticity, cognitive neuroscience, and cognitive science.
“A fitting tribute to Aaron might be a mass protest uploading of copyright-protected research articles,” Allen wrote yesterday on Reddit. “Dump them on Gdocs, tweet the link. Think of the great blu-ray encoding protest but on a bigger scale for research articles.”
As of Sunday morning, it appeared that hundreds were participating in the protest/tribute, posting links to thousands of documents on Twitter using the hashtag #pdftribute, the creation of which Allen attributed to Eva Vivalt and Jessica Richman.
“It gives us some action to take in response to our sorrow and frustration about Aaron’s death,” Richman told CNET. “I had met him several times and have friends that knew him well. It’s a tragic loss.”
In a tweet this morning, Vivalt said the campaign was attracting growing attention.
News of Swartz’s suicide came only days after Jstor announced this week that it would make “more than 4.5 million articles” publicly available for free.
Join the conversation! Add your comment
- Whatever. Of course the family and others want to blame the government for his suicide. But in the end he took his own life because he was mentally ill. Genius or not he did himself in, not anyone else.
- Posted by lkrupp (1489 comments )
- January 13, 2013 9:54 AM (PST) Like (5) Reply Link Flag
- When are you going to do us the favor? Can I help?
- Posted by Bucky4U (187 comments )
- January 13, 2013 10:01 AM (PST) Like (4) Link Flag
- Mentally Ill ??? ! Please..
Just another young miss guided thief. Let Reddit be his lasting tribute as they continue on his work of slander and false innuendos.
Erect a statue of him and put it outside the Reddit headquarters. Where the millions of miss guided hackers of the world can come and pay homage.
Perhaps a bronze statue like Joe Paterno.
- Posted by GEVO-ES44AC (29 comments )
- January 13, 2013 10:47 AM (PST) Like (3) Link Flag
- What. Journals are to blame for this, they made his life hell and all he wanted was to improve the lives of others by opening up journals to everyone. It is PUBLICLY FUNDED RESEARCH, it needs to be OPEN.
- Posted by okaythenxq (10 comments )
- January 13, 2013 11:04 AM (PST) Like (4) Link Flag
“Improve the lives of others”
He wanted to pimp it off as some modern day Watergate conspiracy. You people feed off this horse-s–t. And you believe your own b.s.
Helping to make the lives better for others is feeding starving children. Not breaking and entering and stealing and then trying to pass it off as some great wordily good.
You young people need to put the pipe down, get some fresh air and get off the junk food. With the types we have today who create UFO sites like Reddit this world is doomed for sure.Posted by GEVO-ES44AC (29 comments )January 13, 2013 11:13 AM (PST) Like (5) Link Flag
- @okaythenxq This guy publicly talked about his depression for many years, claiming it was for no reason and had no cure, basically saying his depression was a disease. So when a guy like that finally gets the courage to do it, you don’t blame whoever else was in his life at the time. Many activists manage to not kill themselves over far more serious battles. Made his life hell? Oh please, go talk to Chinese dissidents about having your life made hell. Did you forget he broke into private property? He could have avoided the attention by not breaking the law, he could have made his point another way. Very sad that his suicide is being used as a weapon.
- Posted by JackieBoBackie (1 comment )
- January 13, 2013 11:19 AM (PST) Like (3) Link Flag
- The fact that he was facing a potential 50 year sentence is disproportionate to me. But he committed a crime, and should not be honored or regarded for that. And the fact that he took his own life proves he had a mental illness.
- Posted by d20_9999 (10 comments )
- January 13, 2013 11:46 AM (PST) Like (2) Link Flag
Disproportionate, oh yeah, it’s called making an example to curtail the epidemic you people like to call ‘justified’.
- The question is whether he committed suicide to be a martyr for his cause or if he could not deal with the repercussions of breaking the law. He might have convinced himself of something along the lines of being a martyr. In the end, only a huge social movement n tech around his death will tell. Somehow, I doubt that will happen
- Posted by Flyguy29 (2298 comments )
- January 13, 2013 11:59 AM (PST) Like (1) Link Flag
Is there a movie in the making here ? Um, directed no doubt bu Quentin Tarantino.
- 10% of Americans are on anti-depressent prescription medication, add in the number of undiagnosed, and you have a nation of depressed people.
Ironically it takes a nation of depressed people to think 50 years and 14 felonies is the appropriate sentence for such a tiny infraction as what Aaron did.
I think he was wrong, and deserved 6 months in jail for a misdemeanor crime – but we aren’t a country that understands scale or the idea of taking a reasonable response.
The government is to blame for what it did – which is engage in one absurdity after the next.
Aaron is responsible for his part in it. All-in-all its a tragedy that we lost Aaron and still have the same idiots in power, if only it had been the other way around.Posted by roblearns (1182 comments )January 13, 2013 7:11 PM (PST) Like (1) Link Flag
- Swartz had every legal right to access JSTOR and JSTOR was backing down on any prosecution.
This happened because A holes like Orrin Hatch are bought and paid for by the RIAA and the MPIAA, he’s the head of the judiciary committee but he can’t tell the difference between copyright infringement and checking out a library book.
How did Hatch get away with breaking into the Senate computer and stealing email and documents from democrats in MemoGate?
This was after Hatch made computer intrusion a crime punishable by a term of up to life in prison. What a hypocrite!Posted by Bucky4U (187 comments )January 13, 2013 9:58 AM (PST) Like (4) Reply Link Flag
- He did not have any right to access JSTOR from a broken into computer network wiring closet. Not even in the slightest. Breaking into someone elses private property is a crime no matter what the reason for doing so.
- Posted by dennisheadley (590 comments )
- January 13, 2013 10:08 AM (PST) Like (6) Link Flag
- @dennisheadley MIT has admitted that he was a “guest” and the license agreement for access included “guests”. He was entitled to manual access, and automated it because that was his nature. He automated everything.
The crime he was accused of, properly put, was “automating access to information he was legally entitled manual access to.” The offerred punishment was up to 50 years in federal prison – more than we give for multiple murder – and the cost of defending himself was according to the prosecutor on average $1.5 million his family didn’t have.
They were going to impoverish his family and throw him in federal pound-me-in-the-? prison for the rest of his life for accessing information he was legally entitled to in the wrong WAY.
- There is something seriously wrong with a society that imposes more prison time for the theft of material than homicide. America the beautiful.
- Posted by kingtas (1 comment )
- January 13, 2013 10:02 AM (PST) Like (6) Reply Link Flag
- Aaron helped to defeat the SOPA bill. This put a prosecutorial target on his back. Aaron was the type of person who changes the world. Our government knew this and wanted him to disappear.
How long would most people last under the pressure of defending themselves against the massive power of the empire we now live in?Posted by marymmac (1 comment )January 13, 2013 10:13 AM (PST) Like (3) Reply Link Flag
- Yeah, that’s why he commits suicide, which is the aliment expression of what ever guilt you are feeling or worried about.
And we haven’t even mention how cowardly..
We now have two distinct categories for those under 40, ‘hipsters & fraudsters’ and amazingly both are interchangeable.Posted by GEVO-ES44AC (29 comments )January 13, 2013 11:05 AM (PST) Like (1) Link Flag
- may his family and friends find peace.
- Posted by sarai1313 (1664 comments )
- January 13, 2013 10:52 AM (PST) Like (2) Reply Link Flag
- Common Criminal, nothing else. Calling him an “Activist” is like calling bin’ Laden a “Freedom Fighter.”
- The prosecutor’s going to be busy Monday filing charges against all these people on Twitter. She wanted a high-profile case for her gubernatorial campaign anyway.
- Posted by Kasar99 (210 comments )
- January 13, 2013 12:44 PM (PST) Like Reply Link Flag
- I have just finished reading the entire court record (or at least the parts which are not under seal). It is clear that Aaron believed he had the right to do what he did and wanted the governments evidence that he did it struck from the record. It seems likely that his lawyers told him this approach was unlikely to succeed.
Aaron’s mental health issues aside, there is a pattern of not being willing to take responsibility for one’s own actions and then bearing the consequences. Like a professional athlete or a Hollywood star this young man seems to have been shielded from “reality: by well meaning friends who in sum were doing more harm than good.
Aaron’s legal defense seems to be “but in my moral system this was a good thing.” And it is exactly that defense strategy which demands a vigilant NO from the government. Having one’s own moral code may play well to the Internet blog/twitter set, but if one is not prepared to accept responsibility for the consequences when that moral code conflicts with society’s all that awaits is disaster.
The lesson from this is to stop coddling “genius, talent, or fame”. These people are just that — people — and they too must learn to deal with the real world. Aaron Swartz should be a lesson to Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen.
The government, MIT, and Carmen Ortiz have done NOTHING WRONG here. The tragedy is Aaron’s. The loss is of Aaron. And the blame game needs to stop. Aaron did this to himselfPosted by LissackMichael (7 comments )January 13, 2013 1:28 PM (PST) Like (2) Reply Link Flag
- “Having one’s own moral code may play well to the Internet blog/twitter set, but if one is not prepared to accept responsibility for the consequences when that moral code conflicts with society’s all that awaits is disaster.”
Spot on !
- Not every dish is kosher.
It is written, Do not make your belly your god.
Calculus, for all!
“You gotta try this stuff, man… It will change
how your see your world…”
Math, can become an unhealthy addiction, this is true.
For intelligence, is not to be confused with wisdom.
- It is written,
For the love of money is the root of all evil:
which while some coveted after, they have erred
from the faith, and pierced themselves through
with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 4:6, kjv.
OF means ‘from’ or ‘belonging to’… The love of
money… What can I get with this quarter?…
What can I get with this technology?… What can
I get with this cow, or these magic beans?..
“She’s got options, now I want options too!”
Options, they can distract you, from what is truly
important… Now what a godly person desires, and
what another desires, may be very different objectives,
goals, wants, etc… What do you desire to do with
your money, or your technology, or your magic beans?
During the fifties, some desired a “bite to eat” but
were told that they were not allowed in their restaurant
because of their skin colour – and also maybe because
they were not wearing a shirt.
A sandwich, is it not a good thing? Whereas if you are
denied entry into ‘organized crime’ because you are not
Irish, should you protest that?
“One’s own moral code”, but perhaps one should consider
another?.. The Law of Moses was given unto the Hebrews,
and not another group of people. For example, the
commandment is, Love thy neighbour as thyself… But,
your enemy is not your neighbour… Some wish technology
to enslave others, while others see technology as a means
to deliver fresh water to places infested with diseases
such as malaria.
That said, a moral right is a different concept from a
legal right. Robin Hood was doing that which was illegal,
but was he doing that which was morally correct? Green
Arrow, he seems to rob from the poor to give to the rich.
But sometimes, the poor are a murderous, covetous lot, whereas
the rich desire to build public libraries with quality books,
and not that “bestseller crepe papier”. Algebra, for all!!
Very Robin Hood, non?Posted by i_Rena (322 comments )January 13, 2013 3:22 PM (PST) Like Reply Link Flag
- “Robin Hood was doing that which was illegal,
but was he doing that which was morally correct?”
In the movies anything can be rationalized, that’s why they are often refereed to as ‘fantasy’.
In reality that fantasy can be ‘made to look legitimate’, because it’s popular to hate those who have more then you do.
Politically it falls under being a Socialist or Capitalist. Ironically often enough these young people who entertain suck lofty ideals grow up in a household ripe with greed and shady business practices.
The evidence of that are those who where protesting over the last few years camp out in parks while blogging on their Apple computer while pretending to be ruffing it out in the wild.
Hiding behind their anger of a 5 figure school debt a worthless college degree but proclaiming their dissatisfaction and Corporate American greed.
- To GEVO-E — we get it, enough already. And it’s misguided, not miss guided, unless you are referring to something or someone else.
The citizens who fought in the Revolutionary War were breaking the law, and so were those who fought for civil rights in the south. Keeping academic and scientific research locked up and charging upwards of $30 for access to some of the articles makes no sense in times we call the “information age”. JSTOR must agree if they have decided to make millions of articles public.
The most ludicrous thing of all is the idea that what Swartz did was a felony punishable by millions of dollars in fines and 50 years in prison. Really. Pedophiles and rapists walk the streets and drug dealers are released by the dozens when our prisons get overcrowded. Apparently a copyright deserves more protection than a human being. Someone needs to hit the reset button.Posted by Excelsior1985 (1 comment )January 13, 2013 4:31 PM (PST) Like (1) Reply Link Flag
- I doubt you get anything. He took the easy way out because he could no longer rationalize his faulty belief system. However, the idiot should have stayed alive. Because in a couple of weeks he won’t even be an after thought.
Where as he could have become a poster child behind bars teaching the harden criminals how to perfect their game. (while keeping his virgin a– in tack)Posted by GEVO-ES44AC (29 comments )January 13, 2013 4:40 PM (PST) Like Link Flag
- Sounds like marymmac, kingtas, buckyu, d20_9999, okaythenxq, and excelsior1985 have invited the rest of us to just come into their homes and take whatever we deem “free” from their computers?
If this happened to them, they would be running to the prosecutor’s office and demanding justice faster than a speedy modem.
Rightfully so, they would feel violated, have costly repercussions they’d expect to be compensated for, and would be worried about what was to come from someone having accessed their stolen information.
Lastly, I find the family’s blaming MIT and the prosecutor as irresponsible as their son’s behavior. At least that sheds some light on how such a “bright and promising individual” could be so void of the concept of what’s right and what’s wrong — ironically, a concept my truly “bright and promising” children knew by the age of five.
- Posted by jaajmom (2 comments )
- January 13, 2013 6:22 PM (PST) Like (1) Reply Link Flag
- Of course it’s a sorrowful thing when anyone gives up his/her life – for any reason. Was there any OTHER way? I’d bet there was, life is too precious to give up, with the exception of for one’s country in a wartime battle. He got publicity, would he have known? No. Was it a suicide? Who knows?
- US Attorney Carmen Ortiz is interested in furthering her own political career by prosecuting cases that make the news and adding as many charges as possible. There is a petition at whitehouse.gov to remove her from her appointed position:: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1Ck
- Posted by injuntrouble (40 comments )
- January 13, 2013 8:21 PM (PST) Like Reply Link Flag
- Be aware, GEVO was told to put down this man’s work. It is also his job to change anyone’s mind that may think about finishing what Swartz’s started.
Suicide. Don’t think so. The government does not want people that look for answers because they end up getting those answers.
- What truth ?! Yours, mine or theirs ?
For the truth be told he wasn’t as clever as he thought, to risk his own death over what, searching for some ‘grand conspiracy’ that doesn’t exists except on sites like Reddit where the average user of those types of sites are as confused as the inventor is.
- “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 Wi-Fi 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. The proper place for this dispute was the civil justice system where MIT and JSTOR settled with Aaron, and at the time charges were filed JSTOR spoke out publicly against them. No equivalent statement was made by MIT.”Posted by un-biased_user (2 comments )January 13, 2013 9:13 PM (PST) Like Reply Link Flag
- Yes, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
He was ‘scared to death’, quite literally. Over as you say little to do about nothing.
The public has a right to know what. For there is really not much to know. It’s a sad thing when one realize that disillusionment of what ever it may be.
Hail your hero while the parents seek out that sharp lawyer at 30% off the top.
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© CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.
MIT regrets any role in tragedy
MIT has initiated an investigation into its response to alleged hacking by the late Aaron Swartz, whose suicide Friday prompted Internet freedom advocates to accuse U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office of prosecutorial bullying over Swartz’s alleged cyber-theft of academic documents.
“I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote yesterday. “It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.”
Reif ordered an “analysis” of decisions that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made after Swartz’s alleged hacking of its network in 2010.
Court documents filed the day Swartz hanged himself in his New York apartment indicate federal prosecutors and Swartz’s lawyers were preparing to face off in a Jan. 25 evidentiary hearing over whether a Secret Service search of his seized laptop should be admissible. Prosecutors were expected to argue that Swartz effectively abandoned the laptop when he placed it in a wiring closet at MIT to allegedly steal information remotely.
Swartz faced up to 30 years in prison. Civil libertarians argued prosecutors never should have pursued the case against Swartz.
“This is bullying from people with real power,” said Cambridge civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate, who contended that Swartz broke no federal laws and was acting in pursuit of principle, not profit.
Instapundit.com’s Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, said Swartz’s case shows why prosecutors should be held accountable for overreaching in their charges: “Right now, there’s basically no downside for a prosecutor who does that. They need to have skin in the game, just like the defendant does.”
Swartz’s family has blamed his suicide on an aggressive prosecution. Swartz, 26, co-founder of the news discussion site Reddit.com, had written about the experience of depression on his blog in 2007 — several years before the federal case — as well as in a 2007 short story that ends in the main character stepping out into traffic. His Twitter feed, however, appeared upbeat in recent months, focusing on current topics, such as the minting of a trillion-dollar coin and the computer industry, without apparent references to his federal case or depression.
Efforts to reach Swartz’s lawyers yesterday were unsuccessful. Ortiz’s office, citing the family’s loss, declined to comment. While Swartz faced a hefty sentence, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said first-time nonviolent offenders likely get much lesser penalties, even just probation.
“This happens rarely,” Sullivan said of Swartz’s suicide. “When it does, I have to tell you, my experience is those people close to the investigation feel a deep sense of sadness, as well.”
Many JSTOR Journal Archives Now Free to Public
For more on this development, see Gary Price’s post on INFOdocket.com.
The archives of more than 1,200 journals are now available for limited free reading by the public, JSTOR announced today. Anyone can sign up for a JSTOR account and read up to three articles for free every two weeks.
This is a major expansion of the Register & Read program, following a 10-month test, during which more than 150,000 people registered for access to an initial set of 76 journals. The new additions bring more than 4.5 million articles from nearly 800 scholarly societies, university presses, and academic publishers into the Register & Read offerings.
“Our goal is for everyone around the world to be able to use the content we have put online and are preserving,” said Laura Brown, JSTOR Managing Director. “We have a deep commitment to test new approaches that expand access, while also sustaining the JSTOR online library and preserving this content long into the future. Register & Read is still an experiment for us, but we are thrilled by its initial success and are excited about this next step in its development.”
The move follows others designed to increase access to JSTOR and other scholarly content for the unaffiliated: JSTOR already offers free access to public domain journal content, as well as free access for Wikipedia’s top 100 editors, and an alumni access program. Meanwhile, SAGE is offering alumni access at no additional charge. Udini, ProQuest’s solution for individual access, is also targeting the alumni audience.
Some have expressed concerns about Register & Read, on the scores of privacy and accessibility. JSTOR’s vice president of marketing and communications, Heidi McGregor, tells LJ that accessibility is not a concern: a screen reader will pick up text that asks visually impaired uses to contact JSTOR for a readable copy. McGregor also says JSTOR does not store any credit card information or sell personal information to anyone.
Meredith Schwartz (email@example.com) is News Editor of Library Journal.
Anonymous (Don’t prosecure me either, please)_ says:
Thank you for dropping charges against Aaron Swartz.
Now — why are you holding these government-funded no-market-value articles, many out of copyright, behind your paywall?
Dripping out a little bit of crippled access is not what we are looking for.
speaking my mind says:
You do nothing but stop science. One day companies and people like you will not exist, and you will be remembered as nothing more than the people in the beginning of the internet age hoarding information.
what i think says:
this is correct
Sid Harth says:
Aaron Swartz, 26, no More@elcidharth.com
Schwartz kills Swartz? Hope you sleep well tonight Meredeath…
Too little, too late, JSTOR.
It’s ridiculous that only individuals who pay tuition should have access to knowledge. It’s elitist.
I can see why Aaron Swartz wanted to freely share the work of scholars with the public. It might not be legal but I support the effort to provide access for everyone to work that is often done at public expense (at state-supported universities).
Kurt Steinbach says:
I paid tuition when I was in college, but not all articles were available to us, only what our University (of Memphis) could afford to subscribe to. If the article that I needed or wanted to use for a paper was not available to me, I could not read it and could not use it. I was in a teacher education program and could not access articles from Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton, Columbia (Teacher’s College), University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Rutgers University, and other top institutions of higher learning. If you want to know why our public schools are not the best it is because our teachers do not have access to the best research and the best and most current knowledge to enable them to be the best. They have to pay for it, and a handsome price we have to pay at that. Capitalism is a system that holds people back from doing their best. It is a failed system. Any system that leaves millions of at the starving and homeless while those at the top have millions is a failed system that perpetuates failure, not success!
Sid Harth says:
The laws made in the United States against piracy, be it intellectual or Hollywood music giants throwing J Street lobbyists at the drafting of such laws are nonsensical, to start with. I believe in limited rights to those seeking (further) knowledge hidden behind these laws.
Lucky for me, I have not received any summons from the major media for lifting there articles to be used on my blogs.
I respect academic research and their value to the society. Either they do it or get hacked. Your choice.
Government does it. DARPA is nothing but government funded program for young and creative hackers. Why not anyone complaining about it?
CIA is known for all kinds of funny activities, including but not limited to hacking into foreign governments’ secret vaults. All kept super secret from us.
…and I am Sid Harth@elcidharth.com
Roger Morgan says:
The “Register & Read” program is nearly worthless for research because it’s limited to articles more than 3 years old. You get to read a whopping 3 articles every 2 weeks (you can’t download them, just read them) and they are all guaranteed to be out-of-date, in fields where research is active.
Copyright Library Journal © 2013
MIT to probe its role in Aaron Swartz’s suicide
Protests continue online with the MIT website inaccessible
January 13, 2013, 11:18 PM — The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is conducting an inquiry into its role in the legal struggles that are believed to have lead to the suicide Friday of Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
The institute’s website was also inaccessible for a while late Sunday, apparently after protesters launched an attack on the site.
The Internet pioneer and computer programming prodigy faced a variety of charges in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, including computer intrusion, wire fraud and unlawful collection of information stemming from allegations that he used the MIT network to steal millions of scholarly articles and documents from the JSTOR database of scholarly articles between September 2010 and January 2011.
He allegedly intended to distribute the documents and articles through file-sharing sites. If convicted, he could have been hit with a 35-year jail sentence and a US$1 million fine.
“Although Aaron had no formal affiliation with MIT, I am writing to you now because he was beloved by many members of our community and because MIT played a role in the legal struggles that began for him in 2011,” MIT president L. Rafael Reif said in a statement on Sunday.
Reif said he had asked Hal Abelson, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the institution, to lead a thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that it first noticed unusual activity on its network in fall 2010 up to the present.
“I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it,” Reif said.
MIT did not immediately respond to a request for information on whether its website was under attack. Messages on Twitter by hacker group Anonymous and whistle-blower site WikiLeaks said the site had been brought down in protest against Swartz’s death.
Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death, his family and partner said in a statement. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims, the family said. Unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles, according to the statement.
Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims it might have had against him in June 2011, the not-for-profit service said in a statement on its website.
RIP, Aaron Swartz
Cory Doctorow at 4:53 am Sat, Jan 12
To the extent possible under law, Cory Doctorow has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to “RIP, Aaron Swartz.”
Update: Go read Lessig: “He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.”
My friend Aaron Swartz committed suicide yesterday, Jan 11. He was 26. I got woken up with the news about an hour ago. I’m still digesting it — I suspect I’ll be digesting it for a long time — but I thought it was important to put something public up so that we could talk about it. Aaron was a public guy.
I met Aaron when he was 14 or 15. He was working on XML stuff (he co-wrote the RSS specification when he was 14) and came to San Francisco often, and would stay with Lisa Rein, a friend of mine who was also an XML person and who took care of him and assured his parents he had adult supervision. In so many ways, he was an adult, even then, with a kind of intense, fast intellect that really made me feel like he was part and parcel of the Internet society, like he belonged in the place where your thoughts are what matter, and not who you are or how old you are.
But he was also unmistakably a kid then, too. He would only eat white food. We’d go to a Chinese restaurant and he’d order steamed rice. I suggested that he might be a supertaster and told him how to check it out, and he did, and decided that he was. We had a good talk about the stomach problems he faced and about how he would need to be careful because supertasters have a tendency to avoid “bitter” vegetables and end up deficient in fibre and vitamins. He immediately researched the hell out of the subject, figured out a strategy for eating better, and sorted it. The next time I saw him (in Chicago, where he lived — he took the El a long way from the suburbs to sit down and chat with me about distributed hash caching), he had a whole program in place.
I introduced him to Larry Lessig, and he was active in the original Creative Commons technical team, and became very involved in technology-freedom issues. Aaron had powerful, deeply felt ideals, but he was also always an impressionable young man, someone who often found himself moved by new passions. He always seemed somehow in search of mentors, and none of those mentors ever seemed to match the impossible standards he held them (and himself) to.
This was cause for real pain and distress for Aaron, and it was the root of his really unfortunate pattern of making high-profile, public denunciations of his friends and mentors. And it’s a testament to Aaron’s intellect, heart, and friendship that he was always forgiven for this. Many of us “grown ups” in Aaron’s life have, over the years, sat down to talk about this, and about our protective feelings for him, and to check in with one another and make sure that no one was too stung by Aaron’s disappointment in us. I think we all knew that, whatever the disappointment that Aaron expressed about us, it also reflected a disappointment in himself and the world.
Aaron accomplished some incredible things in his life. He was one of the early builders of Reddit (someone always turns up to point out that he was technically not a co-founder, but he was close enough as makes no damn), got bought by Wired/Conde Nast, engineered his own dismissal and got cashed out, and then became a full-time, uncompromising, reckless and delightful shit-disturber.
The post-Reddit era in Aaron’s life was really his coming of age. His stunts were breathtaking. At one point, he singlehandedly liberated 20 percent of US law. PACER, the system that gives Americans access to their own (public domain) case-law, charged a fee for each such access. After activists built RECAP (which allowed its users to put any caselaw they paid for into a free/public repository), Aaron spent a small fortune fetching a titanic amount of data and putting it into the public domain. The feds hated this. They smeared him, the FBI investigated him, and for a while, it looked like he’d be on the pointy end of some bad legal stuff, but he escaped it all, and emerged triumphant.
He also founded a group called DemandProgress, which used his technological savvy, money and passion to leverage victories in huge public policy fights. DemandProgress’s work was one of the decisive factors in last year’s victory over SOPA/PIPA, and that was only the start of his ambition.
I wrote to Aaron for help with Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother to get his ideas on a next-generation electioneering tool that could be used by committed, passionate candidates who didn’t want to end up beholden to monied interests and power-brokers. Here’s what he wrote back:
First he decides to take over the whole California Senate, so he can do things at scale. He finds a friend in each Senate district to run and plugs them into a web app he’s made for managing their campaigns. It has a database of all the local reporters, so there’s lots of local coverage for each of their campaign announcements.
Then it’s just a vote-finding machine. First it goes through your contacts list (via Facebook, twitter, IM, email, etc.) and lets you go down the list and try to recruit everyone to be a supporter. Every supporter is then asked to do the same thing with their contacts list. Once it’s done people you know, it has you go after local activists who are likely to be supportive. Once all those people are recruited, it does donors (grabbing the local campaign donor records). And then it moves on to voters and people you could register to vote. All the while, it’s doing massive A/B testing to optimize talking points for all these things. So as more calls are made and more supporters are recruited, it just keeps getting better and better at figuring out what will persuade people to volunteer. Plus the whole thing is built into a larger game/karma/points thing that makes it utterly addictive, with you always trying to stay one step ahead of your friends.
Meanwhile GIS software that knows where every voter is is calculating the optimal places to hold events around the district. The press database is blasting them out — and the press is coming, because they’re actually fun. Instead of sober speeches about random words, they’re much more like standup or the Daily Show — full of great, witty soundbites that work perfectly in an evening newscast or a newspaper story. And because they’re so entertaining and always a little different, they bring quite a following; they become events. And a big part of all of them getting the people there to pull out their smartphones and actually do some recruiting in the app, getting more people hooked on the game.
He doesn’t talk like a politician — he knows you’re sick of politicians spouting lies and politicians complaining about politicians spouting lies and the whole damn thing. He admits up front you don’t trust a word he says — and you shouldn’t! But here’s the difference: he’s not in the pocket of the big corporations. And you know how you can tell? Because each week he brings out a new whistleblower to tell a story about how a big corporation has mistreated its workers or the environment or its customers — just the kind of thing the current corruption in Sacramento is trying to cover up and that only he is going to fix.
(Obviously shades of Sinclair here…)
also you have to read http://books.theinfo.org/go/B005HE8ED4
For his TV ads, his volunteer base all take a stab at making an ad for him and the program automatically A/B tests them by asking people in the district to review a new TV show. The ads are then inserted into the commercial breaks and at the end of the show, when you ask the user how they liked it, you also sneak in some political questions. Web ads are tested by getting people to click on ads for a free personality test and then giving them a personality test with your political ad along the side and asking them some political questions. (Ever see ads for a free personality test? That’s what they really are. Everybody turns out to have the personality of a sparkle fish, which is nice and pleasant except when it meets someone it doesn’t like, …) Since it’s random, whichever group scores closest to you on the political questions must be most affected by the ad. Then they’re bought at what research shows to be the optimal time before the election, with careful selection of television show to maximize the appropriate voter demographics based on Nielsen data.
anyway, i could go on, but i should actually take a break and do some of this… hope you’re well
This was so perfect that I basically ran it verbatim in the book. Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill, and intelligence about people and issues. I think he could have revolutionized American (and worldwide) politics. His legacy may still yet do so.
Somewhere in there, Aaron’s recklessness put him right in harm’s way. Aaron snuck into MIT and planted a laptop in a utility closet, used it to download a lot of journal articles (many in the public domain), and then snuck in and retrieved it. This sort of thing is pretty par for the course around MIT, and though Aaron wasn’t an MIT student, he was a fixture in the Cambridge hacker scene, and associated with Harvard, and generally part of that gang, and Aaron hadn’t done anything with the articles (yet), so it seemed likely that it would just fizzle out.
Instead, they threw the book at him. Even though MIT and JSTOR (the journal publisher) backed down, the prosecution kept on. I heard lots of theories: the feds who’d tried unsuccessfully to nail him for the PACER/RECAP stunt had a serious hate-on for him; the feds were chasing down all the Cambridge hackers who had any connection to Bradley Manning in the hopes of turning one of them, and other, less credible theories. A couple of lawyers close to the case told me that they thought Aaron would go to jail.
This morning, a lot of people are speculating that Aaron killed himself because he was worried about doing time. That might be so. Imprisonment is one of my most visceral terrors, and it’s at least credible that fear of losing his liberty, of being subjected to violence (and perhaps sexual violence) in prison, was what drove Aaron to take this step.
But Aaron was also a person who’d had problems with depression for many years. He’d written about the subject publicly, and talked about it with his friends.
I don’t know if it’s productive to speculate about that, but here’s a thing that I do wonder about this morning, and that I hope you’ll think about, too. I don’t know for sure whether Aaron understood that any of us, any of his friends, would have taken a call from him at any hour of the day or night. I don’t know if he understood that wherever he was, there were people who cared about him, who admired him, who would get on a plane or a bus or on a video-call and talk to him.
Because whatever problems Aaron was facing, killing himself didn’t solve them. Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever. If he was lonely, he will never again be embraced by his friends. If he was despairing of the fight, he will never again rally his comrades with brilliant strategies and leadership. If he was sorrowing, he will never again be lifted from it.
Depression strikes so many of us. I’ve struggled with it, been so low I couldn’t see the sky, and found my way back again, though I never thought I would. Talking to people, doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, seeking out a counsellor or a Samaritan — all of these have a chance of bringing you back from those depths. Where there’s life, there’s hope. Living people can change things, dead people cannot.
I’m so sorry for Aaron, and sorry about Aaron. My sincere condolences to his parents, whom I never met, but who loved their brilliant, magnificently weird son and made sure he always had chaperonage when he went abroad on his adventures. My condolences to his friends, especially Quinn and Lisa, and the ones I know and the ones I don’t, and to his comrades at DemandProgress. To the world: we have all lost someone today who had more work to do, and who made the world a better place when he did it.
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Editor’s Note: See our blog for a summary of The Tech’s coverage on Aaron Swartz.
Computer activist Aaron H. Swartz committed suicide in New York City yesterday, Jan. 11, according to his uncle, Michael Wolf, in a comment to The Tech. Swartz was 26.
“The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true,” confirmed Swartz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of Kecker and Van Nest, in an email to The Tech.
Swartz was indicted in July 2011 by a federal grand jury for allegedly downloading millions of documents from JSTOR through the MIT network — using a laptop hidden in a basement network closet in MIT’s Building 16 — with the intent to distribute them. Swartz subsequently moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he then worked for Avaaz Foundation, a nonprofit “global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere.” Swartz appeared in court on Sept. 24, 2012 and pleaded not guilty.
The accomplished Swartz co-authored the now widely-used RSS 1.0 specification at age 14, founded Infogami which later merged with the popular social news site reddit, and completed a fellowship at Harvard’s Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption. In 2010, he founded DemandProgress.org, a “campaign against the Internet censorship bills SOPA/PIPA.”
Online activist Aaron Swartz commits suicide, relative says
By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 6:17 PM EST, Sat January 12, 2013 |
- NEW: Swartz was found Friday evening after he committed suicide by hanging, ME’s office says
- Swartz helped pioneer the Internet’s icons of RSS and Reddit at a young age
- He then became an aggressive Internet activist, landing him in legal trouble
- He dropped out of Stanford after a year because “kids seemed profoundly unconcerned”
(CNN) — Aaron Swartz, an Internet savant who at a young age shaped the online era by co-developing RSS and Reddit and later became a digital activist, has committed suicide, a relative told CNN Saturday.
Swartz’s body was found Friday evening in Brooklyn, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman with the New York medical examiner’s office. The 26-year-old had hanged himself.
A prodigy, Swartz was behind some of the Internet’s defining moments, soaring to heights that many developers only dream of. At the same time, he was plagued by legal problems arising from his aggressive activism, and he was also known to suffer depression, a personal matter that he publicly revealed on his blog.
Technology activist Cory Doctorow met Swartz when he was 14 or 15, Doctorow said on his blog.
“In so many ways, he was an adult, even then, with a kind of intense, fast intellect that really made me feel like he was part and parcel of the Internet society,” Doctorow wrote.
“But Aaron was also a person who’d had problems with depression for many years,” Doctorow blogged. He added that “whatever problems Aaron was facing, killing himself didn’t solve them. Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever.”
At age 14, Swartz co-wrote the RSS specification.
He was later admitted to Stanford University, but dropped out after a year because, as he wrote in a blog post, “I didn’t find it a very intellectual atmosphere, since most of the other kids seemed profoundly unconcerned with their studies.”
What he did next was help develop Reddit, the social news website that was eventually bought by heavyweight publisher Conde Nast in 2006.
Swartz then engaged in Internet digital activism, co-founding Demand Progress, a political action group that campaigns against Internet censorship.
But he pushed the legal limits, allegedly putting him on the wrong side of the law.
In 2011, he was arrested in Boston for alleged computer fraud and illegally obtaining documents from protected computers. He was later indicted from an incident in which he allegedly stole millions of online documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He pleaded not guilty in September, according to MIT’s “The Tech” newspaper.
Two years earlier, the FBI investigated him after he released millions of U.S. federal court documents online. The alleged hacking was significant because the documents came from the government-run Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, which typically charges a fee, which was 8 cents a page in 2009.
No charges were filed in that case, but on October 5, 2009, he posted online his FBI file that he apparently requested from the agency. He redacted the FBI agents’ names and his personal information, he said.
In that file, the FBI said more than 18 million pages with a value of about $1.5 million were downloaded from PACER in September 2008 to Swartz’s home in Highland Park, Illinois.
“As I hoped, it’s truly delightful,” he wrote of his FBI file.
Swartz, who completed a fellowship at Harvard’s Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption, frequently blogged about his life, success and personal struggles. In some instances, he wrote about death.
“There is a moment, immediately before life becomes no longer worth living, when the world appears to slow down and all its myriad details suddenly become brightly, achingly apparent,” he wrote in a 2007 post titled “A Moment Before Dying.”
On November 27, 2007, he blogged about “depressed mood.”
“Surely there have been times when you’ve been sad. Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly awry. Your face falls. Perhaps you cry. You feel worthless. You wonder whether it’s worth going on,” he wrote.
“Everything you think about seems bleak — the things you’ve done, the things you hope to do, the people around you. You want to lie in bed and keep the lights off. Depressed mood is like that, only it doesn’t come for any reason and it doesn’t go for any either.
“At best, you tell yourself that your thinking is irrational, that it is simply a mood disorder, that you should get on with your life. But sometimes that is worse. You feel as if streaks of pain are running through your head, you thrash your body, you search for some escape but find none. And this is one of the more moderate forms,” he wrote.
CNN’s David Ariosto and Brittany Brady in New York contributed to this report.
Aaron Swartz, Reddit Cofounder And Online Activist, Dies At 26
by Melisa Goh
Aaron Swartz co-authored RSS and founded the company that later became the social media website Reddit.
Boston Globe via Getty Images
He was 14 when he co-authored RSS and founded the company that later became the social media website Reddit. On Saturday, Internet activist Aaron Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment, authorities say. He was 26.
A spokesperson for the New York medical examiner says Swartz killed himself, and news of his death was confirmed by an uncle through a post on MIT’s paper The Tech.
Swartz’s Web savvy took him from Internet entrepreneur to online activist, co-founding Demand Progress, a group that campaigns for progressive public policy — in particular fighting against Internet censorship.
His crusades boosted his status as something of a folk hero, but also led to skirmishes with the law. In 2009, CNN reports, he was investigated by the FBI after releasing millions of U.S. federal court documents online: “No charges were filed in that case, but on October 5, 2009, he posted online his FBI file that he apparently requested from the agency.”
Then, as The New York Times reports:
“… in July 2011, he was indicted on federal charges of gaining illegal access to JSTOR, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals, and downloading 4.8 million articles and documents, nearly the entire library.
“Charges in the case, including wire fraud and computer fraud, were pending at the time of Mr. Swartz’s death, carrying potential penalties of up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.”
Just Wednesday, JSTOR announced that the archives of more than 1,200 of its journals would be available to the public for free.
Online tributes are blooming as news of Swartz’s death spreads. One friend and colleague, Lawrence Lessig, lashed prosecutors in the case for “bullying” Swartz. Some, like Boing Bong’s Cory Doctorow delve openly into the depression his friend battled for years – a subject Swartz himself shared publicly. Many have simply taken to Reddit, the forum Swartz fathered, to remember him and explore their loss.
VERY SAD! I AM VERY SURPRISED THAT THERE ARE STILL SO MANY PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO STILL DON’T SEEM TO KNOW THAT DEPRESSION IS A SERIOUS BRAIN DISEASE. OFTEN EVEN MEDICATIONS DON’T WORK. IT IS A HORRIBLE DISEASE TO LIVE WITH. SOME PEOPLE CAN HAVE IT MOST OF THEIR LIVES AND AT SOME POINT THEY JUST CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE. THIS IS NOT FEELING DOWN OR BLUE OR SAD FOR A WHILE. THIS IS AGAIN, A TRUE BRAIN DISEASE THAT NEEDS MORE UNDERSTANDING AND COMPASSION ALONG WITH MORE TREATMENT OPTIONS.
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There must be some kind of suicide gene-as if some people were compelled to it. A friend of mine committed suicide when she was only 40. She seemed to have everything going for her including social and financial success. Why such a drastic measure for people who seem to be at the top of their game when so many people endure unconscionable suffering yet maintain a strong will to live?
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- ©2012 NPR
(Some will say this is not the time. I disagree. This is the time when every mixed emotion needs to find voice.)
Since his arrest in January, 2011, I have known more about the events that began this spiral than I have wanted to know. Aaron consulted me as a friend and lawyer. He shared with me what went down and why, and I worked with him to get help. When my obligations to Harvard created a conflict that made it impossible for me to continue as a lawyer, I continued as a friend. Not a good enough friend, no doubt, but nothing was going to draw that friendship into doubt.
The billions of snippets of sadness and bewilderment spinning across the Net confirm who this amazing boy was to all of us. But as I’ve read these aches, there’s one strain I wish we could resist:
Please don’t pathologize this story.
No doubt it is a certain crazy that brings a person as loved as Aaron was loved (and he was surrounded in NY by people who loved him) to do what Aaron did. It angers me that he did what he did. But if we’re going to learn from this, we can’t let slide what brought him here.
First, of course, Aaron brought Aaron here. As I said when I wrote about the case (when obligations required I say something publicly), if what the government alleged was true — and I say “if” because I am not revealing what Aaron said to me then — then what he did was wrong. And if not legally wrong, then at least morally wrong. The causes that Aaron fought for are my causes too. But as much as I respect those who disagree with me about this, these means are not mine.
But all this shows is that if the government proved its case, some punishment was appropriate. So what was that appropriate punishment? Was Aaron a terrorist? Or a cracker trying to profit from stolen goods? Or was this something completely different?
Early on, and to its great credit, JSTOR figured “appropriate” out: They declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the “criminal” who we who loved him knew as Aaron.
Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.
Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.
For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”
In that world, the question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.” For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million dollar trial in April — his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge. And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it.
Fifty years in jail, charges our government. Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.
One word, and endless tears.
12 January 2013 · 207 Comments and 3785 Reactions
Online activist Swartz dies; faced trial on accusations of stealing electronic journal archive
By Associated Press, Updated: Saturday, January 12, 5:42 PM
Banks seek NSA help amid attacks on their computer systems
View Photo Gallery — Snapshot: 6 basic questions on cybersecurity: Two decades after the first warnings about “hackers,” the threat has only grown with individuals, companies and even nations at risk. Post reporter Robert O’Harrow Jr. answers six questions about personal and national vulnerability.
By Ellen Nakashima, Published: January 11
- © 1996-2013 The Washington Post
|This article is about a person who has recently died. Some information, such as the circumstances of the person’s death and surrounding events, may change as more facts become known.|
Swartz in 2008
|Born||November 8, 1986
|Died||January 11, 2013 (aged 26)
Brooklyn, New York
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Occupation||Software developer, writer, Internet activist|
Aaron H. Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was an American computer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist. Swartz co-authored the “RSS 1.0″ specification of RSS, and built the website framework web.py and the architecture for the Open Library. Although frequently attributed as a co-founder of Reddit, the claim is disputed by Reddit’s original founders.
He also focused on sociology, civic awareness and activism. In 2010 he was a member of the Harvard University Center for Ethics. He founded the online group Demand Progress (which recently voiced its support for Richard O’Dwyer) and later worked with US and international activist groups Rootstrikers and Avaaz.
On January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his New York apartment; he is believed to have hanged himself.
Life and works
Swartz’s family lived in Highland Park, Illinois. His father founded a software company, and from a young age Swartz was interested in computing, frequently studying computers, the Internet and Internet culture. When he was 13, Swartz was a winner of the ArsDigita Prize, a competition for young people who created “useful, educational, and collaborative” non-commercial Web sites. The prize included a trip to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and meetings with Internet notables. At the age of 14 Swartz was collaborating with experts in networking standards as a member of the working group that authored the RSS 1.0 Specification.
He later attended Stanford University, but left after one year, stating, “I didn’t find it a very intellectual atmosphere, since most of the other kids seemed profoundly unconcerned with their studies.” Instead he founded the software company Infogami, a startup that was funded by Y Combinator‘s first Summer Founders Program.
Through the Y Combinator program, Swartz started the wiki platform Infogami (later used to support the web.py and Open Library sites), but felt he needed co-founders to proceed. Y-Combinator organizers suggested that Infogami merge with Reddit, which was finalized in January 2006. While Reddit initially found it difficult to make money from the Reddit project, the site later gained in popularity, with millions of users visiting it each month. In late 2006, after months of negotiations, Reddit was sold to CondéNet, owners of Wired magazine. Swartz moved with his company to San Francisco to work on Wired, but grew unhappy with the set-up and in January, 2007, he was asked to resign from his position. Swartz described himself as being ill and suffering from a constant depressed mood throughout 2007. In September, 2007, Swartz joined with Simon Carstensen and launched Jottit. In 2010–2011 he was a fellow at Harvard University‘s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.
Swartz was also the creator of the web.py Web application framework, and co-founded Demand Progress, a progressive advocacy group that organizes people via email and other media for “contacting Congress and other leaders, funding pressure tactics, and spreading the word” about targeted issues.
In 2009, Swartz downloaded and publicly released approximately 20% of the PACER database of United States federal court documents managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. He had accessed the system as part of a free trial of PACER at 17 libraries around the country, which was suspended “pending an evaluation” as a result of Swartz’s actions. Those actions brought him under investigation by the FBI, but the case was closed two months later with no charges being filed.
On July 19, 2011, Swartz was charged by U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer, in relation to downloading roughly 4 million academic journal articles from JSTOR. According to the indictment against him, Swartz surreptitiously attached a laptop to MIT’s computer network, which allowed him to “rapidly download an extraordinary volume of articles from JSTOR.” Prosecutors in the case claim Swartz acted with the intention of making the papers available on P2P file-sharing sites.
Swartz surrendered to authorities, pleading not guilty on all accounts, and was released on US$100,000 unsecured bail. Prosecution of the case continued, with charges of wire fraud and computer fraud, carrying a potential prison term of up to 35 years and a fine of up to $1 million. After Swartz’s arrest, JSTOR put out a statement saying it would not pursue civil litigation against him.
On September 7, 2011, JSTOR announced it had released the public-domain content of its archives for public viewing and downloading. According to JSTOR, it had been working on making those archives public for some time, but the controversy had some effect on its planning “largely out of concern that people might draw incorrect conclusions about our motivations.” In the end, JSTOR claimed that such concerns did not stop it from continuing with the initiative.
The case tested the reach of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was passed in 1984 to enhance the government’s ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality.
The government, however, has interpreted the anti-hacking provisions to include activities such as violating a website’s terms of service or a company’s computer usage policy, a position a federal appeals court in April said means “millions of unsuspecting individuals would find that they are engaging in criminal conduct.” The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in limiting reach of the CFAA, said that violations of employee contract agreements and websites’ terms of service were better left to civil lawsuits.
The rulings by the 9th Circuit cover the West, and not Massachusetts, meaning they are not binding in Swartz’s prosecution. The Obama administration declined to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
- Swartz, Aaron (Jan–Feb 2002.). “MusicBrainz: A Semantic Web Service”. IEEE Intelligent Systems 17 (1): 76–77. doi:10.1109/5254.988466. ISSN 1541-1672.
- Swartz, Aaron and Hendler, James “The Semantic Web: A Network of Content for the Digital City”, Proceedings of the Second Annual Digital Cities Workshop, Kyoto, Japan, October 2001.
- Gruber, John and Swartz, Aaron. Markdown definition, December 2004.
- ^ Kirschbaum, Connor (August 3, 2011). “Swartz indicted for JSTOR theft”. The Tech. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- ^ “Police Log”. The Tech. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. February 18, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- ^ a b c d Aaron, Swartz. “How to get a job like mine”.
. jottit (Aaron Swartz). Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- ^ Singel, Ryan (September 13, 2005). “Stars Rise at Startup Summer Camp”. Wired.com Condé Nast Publications. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- ^ Lenssen, Philipp (2007). “A Chat with Aaron Swartz”. Google Blogoscoped. Google Inc. Archived from the original on April 27, 2010. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
- ^ Aaron, Swartz. “Sick”. Aaron Swartz. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- ^ a b Matthews, Laura (July 19, 2011). “Who is Aaron Swartz, the JSTOR MIT Hacker?”. International Business Times. International Business Times, Inc.. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
- ^ Grehan, Rick (August 10, 2011). “Pillars of Python: Web.py Web framework”. InfoWorld. IDG. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- ^ Schwartz, John (February 12, 2009). “An Effort to Upgrade a Court Archive System to Free and Easy”. The New York Times (The New York Times Comapny). Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- ^ a b Singel, Ryan (October 5, 2009). “FBI Investigated Coder for Liberating Paywalled Court Records”. Wired (Condé Nast Publications). Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- ^ Bilton, Nick (July 19, 2011). “Internet Activist Charged in Data Theft”. Boston: Bits Blog, The New York Times Company. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
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- ^ Lindsay, Jay (July 19, 2011). “Feds: Harvard fellow hacked millions of papers”. Associated Press. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
- ^ a b Schwartz, John (July 19, 2011). “Open-Access Advocate Arrested for Huge Download”. The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- ^ District of Massachusetts. “United States v. Aaron Swartz”. The Internet Archive/RECAP. 1:11-cr-10260. Archived from the original on December 18, 2012 (and ongoing). Retrieved January 3, 2013.
- ^ Sims, Nancy (October 2011). “Library licensing and criminal law: The Aaron Swartz case”. College & Research Libraries News (Association of College and Research Libraries) 72 (9): 534–537. ISSN 0099-0086. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
- ^ “US Government Ups Felony Count In JSTOR/Aaron Swartz Case From Four To Thirteen”. techdirt. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
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- ^ Brown, Laura (September 7, 2011). “JSTOR–Free Access to Early Journal Content and Serving “Unaffiliated” Users”. JSTOR. ITHAKA. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- ^ Kravets, David (09.18.12). “Feds Charge Activist with 13 Felonies for Rogue Downloading of Academic Articles”. Wired. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- ^ David Kravets (12-08-10). “DOJ Won’t Ask Supreme Court to Review Hacking Case”. Wired. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
- ^ “Co-founder of Reddit Aaron Swartz found dead”. CBS News. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- ^ Lessig, Lawrence (January 12, 2013). “Prosecutor as bully”. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
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