Online activist, programmer Swartz dies in NY

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 12, 2013 at 9:04 pm •  Published: January 12, 2013
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Preceding the Massachusetts' case, Swartz aided Malamud in his 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. Swartz wrote a program in 2008 to legally download the files using free access via public libraries, according to The New York Times. 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. The federal government accused Swartz of using the Massachusetts Institute Technology's computer network to steal nearly 5 million academic articles. The indictment alleged Swartz stole the documents from JSTOR, a subscription service used by MIT that offers digitized copies of articles from more than 1,000 academic journals.

Prosecutors said Swartz hacked into MIT's system in November of 2010 after breaking into a computer wiring closet on campus. Prosecutors said he intended to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites.

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.

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 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.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges. His federal trial was to begin next month. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.

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

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