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Aaron Swartz Indicted in Attempted Piracy of Four Million Documents 174

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the but-information-wants-to-be-free dept.
An anonymous reader writes "New York Times has reported that Internet activist Aaron Swartz has been indicted for stealing more than 4 million documents from JSTOR." The indictment contains an exciting tale featuring trespassing, MAC address forgery, a Python script or two, and even computers hidden under a cardboard box. El Reg has a decent summary. Demand Progress has released an official response claiming the charges are trumped up nonsense.
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Aaron Swartz Indicted in Attempted Piracy of Four Million Documents

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  • by mykos (1627575) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @03:41PM (#36815170)
    MIT doesn't care, but the fact that he's very critical of the government makes him a prime target for shoehorning accusations onto him to shut him and his site up.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @03:49PM (#36815262)

    Good lord, where exactly is this evidence that it's unconstitutional? The fact that you don't like it isn't exactly a constitutional argument. Also, Thomas Drake was acquitted, and citing someone guilty of treason and a grown woman who convinced a teenage girl to kill herself as your "defense" isn't really as convincing as you seem to think it is.

  • by decora (1710862) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @03:56PM (#36815344) Journal

    how pointless it is.

    its like having a law that says 'its illegal to bad things on a computer'. what the hell does that even mean? its complete bullshit, which is proved by the wide variety of people that have been prosecuted under it.

    Drake was not acquitted, he plead guilty to one misdemeanor under the CFAA (instead of 5 felonies under the Espionage Act) - the point of his case is that the CFAA made it criminal to simply take unclassified information and have it in your house. UNCLASSIFIED.

    now the CFAA applies to women telling people to commit suicide? AND to a guy who downloads from JSTOR? And to a guy who jailbreaks his playstation? What the fuck kind of a law is that?

  • Re:How curious... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cancer4xmas (666669) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @04:19PM (#36815598) Homepage
    This isn't the first time Swartz has spidered a site in order to download the content hosted there. In 2009, he went after the PACER system which hosts court records. While those are public documents, they're behind a per-page paywall. His python script was probably reused from before, just s/pacer.gov/jstor.org/g. See: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/10/swartz-fbi/ [wired.com]

    When you're the creator of the Open Library project, liberating a few million articles from behind a rather expensive paywall is, at the very least, quite circumstantially indicative of what your intentions might be. While I personally think access to such document repositories for scientific journals is priced way too high, most people can go to public or university libraries to do any research they might want to do. Breaking into a wiring closet, getting MIT's access to JSTOR cut off for days, spoofing your MAC address, getting shut off, spoofing your MAC address again, and still continuing on downloading is not the way to go about trying to affect change the way he wanted to. Smart kid buried under an avalanche of dumb.
  • It's unconstitutionally vague, because courts are completely unsure how to draw the line between which ToS violations are criminal and which are not.

    A non-vague possibility would be that all ToS violations are a federal "hacking" crime. For example, evading a Slashdot ban might be a felony. But few courts seem to want to do that. So which ToS are enforceable and which aren't?

    Let's say that I'm on a university network without breaking into it (which I am). If I slurp 4 million JSTOR documents, this is clearly a violation of JSTOR's terms of service. But I have not in any meaningful way "hacked into" JSTOR; I accessed it from my university network, which I had legitimate access to. Yet it appears, under the theory advanced here, that I would be guilty of a federal crime, "stealing" 4 million documents from JSTOR, because my access went above the use JSTOR authorized me to make of their service, and therefore constitutes computer trespassing.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @04:33PM (#36815792)

    I don't understand why computer laws are so hard. My computer is my property, as is the data stored on it. Accessing that data without my permission is trespassing. Destroying data is destruction of private property. Running software on it without my permission is conversion. Using my computer to lie to me to get my money is fraud. Threatening to delete my files unless I buy your software is blackmail. Sending threatening messages to me is assault.

    Why is this so freaking hard!? We don't need laws specifically for computers or any other piece of technology, what we need is for politicians and justices to understand the fundamental concept that data is property and a computer is the just the physical (and arguably, least important) part of the system.

  • Re:Not Piracy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drooling-dog (189103) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @04:44PM (#36815942)

    No, but he did chair the committee that authorized funding for the creation of what became the internet

    ...and as a result has been universally taunted and mocked by ignorant Republicans, not a one of whom at the time had even the slightest clue what the internet was, let alone what it could potentially become.

  • by chaboud (231590) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @07:49PM (#36817542) Homepage Journal

    Bingo!

    It can't be hacking if no hacking was necessary. Using a computer interface on a network, as intended, to do something that someone only slightly didn't want, but allowed, doesn't really feel like a computer crime to me.

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