unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
[personal profile] unjapanologist
Remember Aaron Swartz, the information freedom activist who set off a broad online discussion about academic databases in 2011 when he downloaded about four million articles from JSTOR to make a point about how knowledge shouldn't be locked away from the public?

Swartz never put those four million articles online anywhere, or did anything else with them besides downloading, but the way he downloaded them (edit: better link) was in violation of JSTOR's terms of service. JSTOR recognized that they were dealing with an activist doing a stunt, not some kind of pirate who wanted to deny them income; they declined to press charges. However, a federal prosecutor decided to make an example of Swartz and pursued him relentlessly, threatening to slap him with a million-dollar fine and up to thirty-five years in jail. With the upcoming trial looming over him, Swartz hanged himself on January 11 at the age of 26.

We often point to examples of incidents that show how broken copyright law is, but this is just too enraging for words. Karl Fogel at QuestionCopyright.org and Lawrence Lessig say best exactly how shameful the prosecutor's behavior was, regardless of whether or not Swartz' actions were wrong (they differ on that). This guy did not deserve what he was being threatened with. The people who wasted public money hounding him to his death instead of dealing with actual crimes should be too ashamed to ever look in the mirror again.
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