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.Swartz faced a million-dollar trial, and he was out of money, "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."
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....
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.AND: From the NYT obit:
In 2008, he took on Pacer — or Public Access to Court Electronic Records, the repository for federal judicial documents. The database charges 10 cents a page for documents; activists like Carl Malamud, the founder of public.resource.org, have long argued that such documents should be free since they are produced at public expense....He was scared, apparently, but he also joked and flaunted about his misdeeds:
Mr. Swartz recalled, “I had this vision of the feds crashing down the door, taking everything away.”...
“Attention attractive people: Are you looking for someone respectable enough that they’ve been personally vetted by The New York Times, but has enough of a bad-boy streak that the vetting was because they ‘liberated’ millions of dollars of government documents? If so, look no further than page A14 of today’s New York Times.”...The government chose not to prosecute that time. But Swartz moved on to the JSTOR matter, and United States attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said: “Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”
The obit links to Swartz's own blog post describing his depression (and other ills). That post is from 2007, before either the Pacer or the JSTOR incidents.