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Feds Add 9 Felony Charges Against Swartz For JSTOR Hack 252

Posted by Soulskill
from the seeing-what-sticks dept.
Last year Aaron Swartz was indicted on four felony counts for allegedly stealing millions of academic journal articles from JSTOR. Today, Federal prosecutors piled on nine additional felony charges. The charges (PDF) are mostly covered under the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and are likely to test the legislation's limits. According to Wired, "The indictment accuses Swartz of repeatedly spoofing the MAC address — an identifier that is usually static — of his computer after MIT blocked his computer based on that number. The grand jury indictment also notes that Swartz didn't provide a real e-mail address when registering on the network. Swartz also allegedly snuck an Acer laptop bought just for the downloading into a closet at MIT in order to get a persistent connection to the network. Swartz allegedly hid his face from surveillance cameras by holding his bike helmet up to his face and looking through the ventilation holes when going in to swap out an external drive used to store the documents. Swartz also allegedly named his guest account 'Gary Host,' with the nickname 'Ghost.'"
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Feds Add 9 Felony Charges Against Swartz For JSTOR Hack

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  • by chaboud (231590) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:02PM (#41381973) Homepage Journal

    And this is why, when prosecutors have clearly dog-piled unreasonable charges in an effort to force a plea, judges should reflexively dismiss cases with prejudice. At this point, there's no harm in trying.

    Hell, prosecutors who bully with untenable charges should be held in contempt. This is up to judges. It is their responsibility to maintain fairness. Perhaps we should start appointing/electing judges who didn't go to the same law schools and work in the same firms as the attorneys they interact with. Perhaps we should stop appointing/electing lawyers.

  • by CockMonster (886033) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:23PM (#41382125)
    Here's the reason given in the archive for the theft/release: -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- Hash: SHA1 This archive contains 18,592 scientific publications totaling 33GiB, all from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and which should be available to everyone at no cost, but most have previously only been made available at high prices through paywall gatekeepers like JSTOR. Limited access to the documents here is typically sold for $19 USD per article, though some of the older ones are available as cheaply as $8. Purchasing access to this collection one article at a time would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also included is the basic factual metadata allowing you to locate works by title, author, or publication date, and a checksum file to allow you to check for corruption. ef8c02959e947d7f4e4699f399ade838431692d972661f145b782c2fa3ebcc6a sha256sum.txt I've had these files for a long time, but I've been afraid that if I published them I would be subject to unjust legal harassment by those who profit from controlling access to these works.
    I now feel that I've been making the wrong decision.
    On July 19th 2011, Aaron Swartz was criminally charged by the US Attorney General's office for, effectively, downloading too many academic papers from JSTOR.
    Academic publishing is an odd system—the authors are not paid for their writing, nor are the peer reviewers (they're just more unpaid academics), and in some fields even the journal editors are unpaid. Sometimes the authors must even pay the publishers.
    And yet scientific publications are some of the most outrageously expensive pieces of literature you can buy. In the past, the high access fees supported the costly mechanical reproduction of niche paper journals, but online distribution has mostly made this function obsolete.
    As far as I can tell, the money paid for access today serves little significant purpose except to perpetuate dead business models. The "publish or perish" pressure in academia gives the authors an impossibly weak negotiating position, and the existing system has enormous inertia.
    Those with the most power to change the system--the long-tenured luminary scholars whose works give legitimacy and prestige to the journals, rather than the other way around--are the least impacted by its failures. They are supported by institutions who invisibly provide access to all of the resources they need. And as the journals depend on them, they may ask for alterations to the standard contract without risking their career on the loss of a publication offer. Many don't even realize the extent to which academic work is inaccessible to the general public, nor do they realize what sort of work is being done outside universities that would benefit by it.
    Large publishers are now able to purchase the political clout needed to abuse the narrow commercial scope of copyright protection, extending it to completely inapplicable areas: slavish reproductions of historic documents and art, for example, and exploiting the labors of unpaid scientists. They're even able to make the taxpayers pay for their attacks on free society by pursuing criminal prosecution (copyright has classically been a civil matter) and by burdening public institutions with outrageous subscription fees.
    Copyright is a legal fiction representing a narrow compromise: we give up some of our natural right to exchange information in exchange for creating an economic incentive to author, so that we may all enjoy more works. When publishers abuse the system to prop up their existence, when they misrepresent the extent of copyright coverage, when they use threats of frivolous litigation to suppress the dissemination of publicly owned works, they are stealing from everyone else.
    Several years ago I came into possession, through rather boring and lawful means, of a large collection of JSTOR documents.
    These particular documents are the historic back archives of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society—a prestigious scien
  • Re:Curious. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by krsmav (1410223) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:56PM (#41382363)
    The most annoying JSTOR policy is that their site is available only to institutions or scholars associated with institutions. They will not sell a subscription to an ordinary individual. Most libraries have subscriptions, but they don't permit remote access. The only exception I know of is the New York Society Library, which costs $200 per year. http://www.nysoclib.org/index.html [nysoclib.org]
  • Re:Curious. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:14PM (#41382459) Homepage

    Im much more concerned with a generation that seems to favor some kind of anarchy where everyone decides for themselves which of the laws are worth following.

    If you don't think that everyone should decide for themselves which laws are worth following, then it follows that you would have handed over fugitive slaves in the 1850s, or fugitive Jews in the 1940s. If that is the case, then you are a terrible human being.

    Law has no moral authority in and of itself.

  • Re:Curious. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cyberllama (113628) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:31PM (#41382557)

    I've used JSTOR and I never agreed to any TOS. More than likely, the University in question did that as they are the actual "customer".

    I frankly find it hard to believe that spoofing a MAC address to keep from being banned from a network rises to the level of "hacking". The guy already has trespassing charges for being in the building, and that seems like the most appropriate crime to charge him with. Everything else is just piling on bullshit because "We didn't have a law that fit this guy, so we're gonna throw everything we can think of at him because we think he should go to jail."

    For the record, all the articles he "stole" are public domain. JSTOR asserts copyright because it was their scan, even though the articles themselves belong to the public now. The problem is, that there's currently no way to access a lot of this older public domain stuff except by going through JSTOR.

  • by decora (1710862) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:52PM (#41382705) Journal

    1. professors dont have power. at most universities, professors have become part-time hired hands with no health insurance, as the 'adjuncts' rapidly grow to dwarf the size of actual professors. tenure is a figment of the past, publish or perish, and on and on and on.

    2. the 'slavish reproductions' take a lot of librarians, scholars, and workers a very long time to collect and scan, because paper archives are incomplete, damaged, full of misprints, etc etc etc. read the JSTOR book and you will understand what they had to do to make a 'canonical' archive to scan - they actually had to create their own paper library archive and then scan that, because the typical backfiles at a university library are incomplete, incorrect, badly catalogued, damaged, etc etc etc.

    3. Everything before 1923 (or whatever year it is now) is in the public domain. There is no way to copyright those pages. I have taken stuff out of pre-1923 books from google books and put it on wikipedia (with a link back to google books) . There is nothing they can do to you.

    AFTER 1923 US copyright law kicks in. But since you are tlaking about a UK journal, you also need to look at UK copyright. Again, maybe you think copyright is bullshit, but JSTOR does not have the luxury of philosophical purity. They had a job to do, namely to scan the worlds journals and provide access, and thats how they did it... they had to sweet talk the academic publishing monopolies (who would prefer JSTOR didnt exist) into allowing them to do what they do. They have provided access to millions of people around the world that was not possible without them. You can shit all over them all you want, but they dont control the laws. They are just trying to accomplish the same thing the libraries have been trying to accomplish all these years - disseminate knowledge for little or no cost. It is not their fault that the academic publishing houses (Elsevier, etc) abuse the system.

  • by jamstar7 (694492) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @12:37AM (#41383239)

    Oh for the love of god...

    On one hand, we have a person who knowingly broke into a computer system to steal documents. On the other, we have a few people who dared to criticize the country's ruler. Are you seriously so disconnected from reality that you think these scenarios are at all comparable?

    Oh, ffs, this guy made a shitpile of bogus accounts to download more than 'his fair share' of academic papers utilizing the site's own software. It's not like he figured out how to telnet in, change a root password, or remote mount the whole damned drive on the other computer under his user directory and hoover it clean. There was no 'breaking in'. Stop acting like he's the most knowledgeable 'hacker' since Cap'n Crunch figured out how to finagle free long distance calls. He didn't bypass a thing. The only 'fraud' he committed was lying to a comany about who he was when he created those bullshit accounts. What, he 'intended' to sell the articles to college kids for their theses? What, it's now against the law to lie about your identity to a company?

  • by alendit (1454311) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @03:17AM (#41383979)

    With 97% of federal cases ending in plea bargain and again over 90% of the rest being won by the prosecution, you comment strikes me as a bit naive.

    And of cause does the US have a "hooliganism" law, for example in California http://www.shouselaw.com/disturbing-peace.html#overview [shouselaw.com] .

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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