Aaron Swartz was facing a potential sentence of dozens of years in prison for allegedly trying to make MIT academic journal articles public.... In September 2012, Aaron Swartz was charged with thirteen counts of felony hacking. In July 2011 Swartz was arrested for allegedly scraping 4 million MIT papers from the JSTOR online journal archive....
Swartz's subsequent struggle for money to offset legal fees to fight the Department of Justice and stay afloat was no secret....
Demand Progress — itself an organization focused on online campaigns dedicated to fighting for civil liberties, civil rights, and progressive government reform - compared The Justice Department's indictment of Swartz to "trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library."ADDED: Here's a podcast from a year ago in which Swartz discusses his activism stopping SOPA (the The Stop Online Piracy Act). The part with Swartz begins at 17:20.
Swartz's suicide came two days after JSTOR announced it is releasing "more than 4.5 million articles" to the public.
AND: Here's Swartz's Wikipedia page. Picture:
ALSO: Cory Doctorow:
I met Aaron when he was 14 or 15.... Aaron accomplished some incredible things in his life... 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....AND: I started a new post for the Lessig commentary.
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.... 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.