Aaron Swartz Atty: Govt's Arguments "Disingenuous And Contrived"
Blogger Patterico emailed me, having done his usual meticulous work to dissect and make sense of a complicated situation:
This post examines PACER filings submitted on Friday, the day Aaron Swartz committed suicide, and discloses evidence that the Government recently revealed which undercut some of their previous assertions in response to a motion to suppress. I don't think anyone else has yet discussed these filings. In addition, I have an exclusive interview with Swartz's attorney, who described the Government's arguments as "disingenuous and contrived." It's a piece of independent and exclusive journalism that I think adds to the conversation regarding this very sad situation.
His post is here.
More at EFF about Aaron Swartz' contributions, the case against him, and his suicide. An excerpt about the trouble he got in and why:
His passion for the written word, for open knowledge, and his flair for self-promotion, sometimes produced spectacular results, even before the events that proved to be his undoing.
In 2011, Aaron used the MIT campus network to download millions of journal articles from the JSTOR database, allegedly changing his laptop's IP and MAC addresses when necessary to get around blocks put in place by JSTOR and MIT and sneaking into a closet to get a faster connection to the MIT network. For this purported crime, Aaron was facing criminal charges with penalties up to thirty-five years in prison, most seriously for "unauthorized access" to computers under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
If we believe the prosecutor's allegations against him, Aaron had hoped to liberate the millions of scientific and scholarly articles he had downloaded from JSTOR, releasing them so that anyone could read them, or analyze them as a single giant dataset, something Aaron had done before. While his methods were provocative, the goal that Aaron died fighting for -- freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it -- is one that we should all support.
Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, and particularly their punishment regimes. Aaron's act was undoubtedly political activism, and taking such an act in the physical world would, at most, have a meant he faced light penalties akin to trespassing as part of a political protest. Because he used a computer, he instead faced long-term incarceration. This is a disparity that EFF has fought against for years. Yesterday, it had tragic consequences. Lawrence Lessig has called for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them. We agree.