Vigil for Aaron Swartz outside the federal courthouse today

Starts at 2 p.m. opposite the Moakley Courthouse, where Swartz was scheduled to go on trial in a month for downloading documents from an online database.



Free tagging: 


would that be the same courthouse he was offered a plea of 6 mo?

He was offered 6 months jailtime before it went to trial, and it was widely believed he'd probably only get time served since JSTOR formally declined and MIT was neutral.

6 months:

For physically trespassing onto MIT property, into an MIT building, and installing equipment in an MIT networking closet.

For subverting attempts to disconnect the laptop from the network.

For causing THREE MONTHS of disruptions to JSTOR (a not for profit electronic library) that impacted services for the paying members, and required JSTOR to block part of the MIT campus (and then, for several days, all of MIT.)

For then setting up a second laptop to extract documents - the two laptops causing so much load that JSTOR's servers crashed.

For stealing gigabytes of bandwidth and tying up network staff and system administrators who were trying to kill his bandwidth-sucking stunt.

Funny how he could afford to buy two expensive laptops, but couldn't afford a JSTOR subscription, or spend some time and his supposed genius setting up a website to help encourage researchers to exchange papers freely. Nope! It's a lot easier to just stroll onto a university campus and steal services by scraping a website.


Whah whah wahhhh

I say we charge you with cyberterrorism for just breathing near the internet and being a whiny baby douche.

Your comments might matter if they addressed the trumped up bullshit charges that would have meant a life sentence to anti-terrorist nonsense and constant anal surveillance for life had he pled to them. You are ignoring the fact that he wasn't charged for tresspassing or stealing or anything normal like that. He was charged with cyberterrorism. Big difference.

No need to walk all over the poor kid.

Let him rest in peace.

That being said, I still seem to be missing something here. He was offered 6 months for what seems to be a white collar crime? Doesn't seem to bad for me.

And I would never blame a DA for a suicide like this.

Blame Congress for setting penalities so high on crimes like these.

Thanks Jeff,

I read those to bring myself up to date a little.

It does still seem that the official plea bargin numbers haven't been made official yet. 6 months, 4 months, 12 felonies, 14 felonies.

All of the plea deals

All of the plea deals required him to plead to a felony, and thus being branded a felon for the rest of his life. At most, this should have been a minor trespassing charge. Nothing about what he did was worthy of the time the prosecution spent on this. He opened an unlocked door where a homeless man stored stuff, and he plugged a laptop into the network of a school that is world-famous for its open network and encourages people to use it in unorthodox ways. Then he downloaded material that is freely downloadable by any member of the public who visits that physical location. And for that, he was threatened with anywhere from 30-50 years, forced to spend most of the money he made from selling his stake in Reddit on lawyers, and was being bullied into jail time in a federal penitentiary and having "felon" attached to his name for the rest of his life.

The cost of a JSTOR subscription vastly exceeds that of a couple of laptops, and JSTOR places tighter restrictions on individual accounts than it does on MIT, where they have a deal to make the whole thing accessible to the general public.

Many researchers would love to exchange papers freely, but the entire system is set up to prevent that. He was fighting against that system in an act of civil disobedience that while perhaps questionable should never have been treated as a major federal crime. People get arrested for protesting and trespassing ALL THE TIME. Here's a recent example with Darryl Hannah. The only difference between what he did and what Darryl Hannah did is that he used a computer in his civil disobedience. And for that, he was told the best he could do was "get off" with 6 months in jail and a felony conviction. That was no deal - that was a coordinated smear campaign against him.

Even if he hadn't killed himself, there should have been widespread public outrage and protests over this. The fact that there weren't speaks to our general acceptance of a justice system gone horribly wrong and a copyright system that has been so subverted from its original constitutional intent.

So what?

So you are a felon. Altering your ID to get into a bar when you are 20 is a felony. Stealing a hood ornament is a felony. Stealing a book from the MIT library is a felony.

I just don't see the outrage here.

The outrage is that the

The outrage is that the government chose to pursue felony charges instead of misdemeanors. The difference is huge. A convicted felon is restricted from traveling and working outside of the US, must disclose his conviction on employment and housing applications, and has other rights curtailed. As in other computer related felonies, Swartz would probably have had to have given up using a computer and the Internet for some lengthy period of time. In other words, a felony conviction is life altering, especially to someone whose life revolves around technology.

In the examples you cited, those crimes can be misdemeanors or felonies. The government has a choice and chooses based on the context. Alter an ID for your own use to buy a 6-pack and you're probably going to be charged with a misdemeanor. Alter an ID to buy a firearm and you will probably get charged with a felony. Intent matters.

Consider that, in this case, neither JSTOR nor the copyright holders chose to pursue a civil case against Swartz and no party, including MIT, suffered material damage rising to the level of a felony. Further, none of the allegedly stolen material was intended for commercial purposes. This is an important distinction when considering whether a copyright violation is criminal at all, let alone felonious.

Oh there is a difference.

But nothing that I would consider an outrage.

Crimes involving computers/hacking/university files/ etc are almost always considered felonies. Just like cashing bad checks are almost always felonies.

Reading more and more on this, most legal experts seem to think the charges were pretty fair. I don't see anything that would change my mind.

He was charged with 13

He was charged with 13 felonies carrying a potential 35 years of prison time, a $1M fine, and being branded a felon for the rest of his life for breaking into a phone closet and accessing a router on a network that is open to everyone to download copies of academic papers that are also available to everyone.

He committed a misdemeanor, the same one as the homeless person who was storing his crap in that phone closet and he engaged in unethical behavior by violating JSTORS terms of service, however, he did not violate copyright laws since articles in the JSTOR repository are meant to be copied as long as they aren't redistributed for commercial purposes. He didn't steal anything because JSTOR allows access to download the articles and the originals were not affected. According to JSTORs own terms of usage, the penalty for violating the terms is having your account taken away. This was totally consistent with how they handled the case.

MIT, on the other hand, acted less honorably. He did not trespass in the building since it is always open to the public. He did not hack into a private network since he used an open network. He didn't access private and protected data since he was using a service expressly available on the network. Accessing the phone closet just to get more bandwidth and spoofing his MAC address deserved misdemeanor charges, a token fine, and community service, just like it the many unauthorized hacks that get committed on campus.

If you think most legal experts think the charges are fair or that computer crimes are almost always felonies then you should keep reading more and more.

Nor should the charges been a surprise

I'd also add that as an "activist" Awartz should have known the risks involved. He had Mitnick, Manning, Dotcom and a host of others as his predecessors to know how governments respond to that whole "information wants to be free thing." It's a shame that he killed himself, but he really shouldn't have been surprised about what was going to happen. For someone who was politically active, he was politically clueless, which is never a winning combination.

OP stating facts not in (public) evidence

Latest of several very similar anon posts in the threads concerning this story. It seems likely to me that this anon is c&p'ing a set of prepared talking points. The use of ad hominem implies a personal bias as well. Although some of the statements anon keeps making may turn out to be valid, at this point the facts/testimonies available to the pubic don't necessarily support hirs assertions.

(Wish I could auto-skip or at least downvote the anons aka ACs).

This poor man had serious mental health issues

and his family and friends have my full sympathy.

Was Ortiz and other's involved with the prosecution grandstanding? Absolutely. I've also noticed sleazy duplicitous behavior on the part of some of Mr. Swartz's alleged friends and mentors. And some are now using Mr. Swartz's tragic and very personal suicide to turn him into a martyr for their political and ideological cause[s], which I find nasty no matter who does it, no matter their political or ideological affiliations. The real 'cause' here is mental health and the state of our mental health care.

What's funny to me is

that some of the same liberal minded folk who might have seen Ms. Ortiz as someone who overcame the various social injustices foisted upon Latino women to become a US Attorney now see her as evil. As if she alone tied the noose and pulled the chair.

To me she's being made a scapegoat by the same hypocrites who now cry justice for a kid who couldn't handle the thought of one day in the can, while Bradley Manning still rots in a jail cell. Manning is the one seemingly forgotten in all of this and the one whose act of so called cyber terrorism actually mattered more than the bullshit prank Swartz pulled.

Where's the vigil for Manning?