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MIT Warned of a JSTOR Death Sentence Due To Swartz 390

theodp writes "The NY Times takes a look at how MIT ensnared Aaron Swartz, but doesn't shed much light on how the incident became a Federal case with Secret Service involvement. Still, the article is interesting with its report that 'E-mails among M.I.T. officials that Tuesday in January 2011 highlight the pressures university officials felt' from JSTOR, which is generally viewed as a good guy in the incident. From the story: 'Ann J. Wolpert, the director of libraries, wrote to Ellen Finnie Duranceau, the official who was receiving JSTOR's complaints: "Has there ever been a situation similar to this when we brought in campus police? The magnitude, systematic and careful nature of the abuses could be construed as approaching criminal action. Certainly, that's how JSTOR views it."' Less than a week later, a Google search reveals, Duranceau notified the MIT community that immediate changes to JSTOR access had to be made lest the University be subjected to a JSTOR 'death sentence.' 'Because JSTOR has recently reported excessive, systematic downloading of articles at MIT,' the post warned, 'we need to add a new layer of access control. This is the only way to prevent recurrence of the abuse and therefore the only way to ensure ongoing access to this valuable resource for the MIT Community.' The post concludes, 'The incidents that prompted this change involved the use of a robot, which is prohibited by JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use. ...Continued access to JSTOR and other resources is dependent on the MIT Community complying with these policies.' Hope you enjoyed that freewheeling culture while it lasted, kids — now Everything is a Crime."
theodp continues " MIT's Wolpert, who was recently named to an advisory board for JSTOR parent Ithaka, also chairs the Management Board of the MIT Press, where her reports from 2008-2010 included JSTOR Managing Director Laura Brown and MIT's Hal Abelson, adding another twist to Abelson's analysis of MIT's involvement in the Swartz tragedy."
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MIT Warned of a JSTOR Death Sentence Due To Swartz

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  • by Coisiche ( 2000870 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @06:18AM (#42655197)

    Well it is news. The Swartz case has been a discussion topic here in previous articles and this provides a bit more insight into what drove it into becoming a criminal case in the first place; JSTOR pressure on MIT was probably the trigger for MIT's later actions.

  • by eksith ( 2776419 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @06:38AM (#42655265) Homepage
    Agree with this 100%. At the most a public apology for making the system slow would have been plenty from Aaron. While we're at kicking out Ortiz, the same treatment should go to Stephen Heymann.
  • by Sir Foxx ( 755504 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:04AM (#42655347)
    Every student at MIT should download and article from JSTOR and post it online. Everyone. Let's see the system deal with that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:13AM (#42655401)

    The more details that come out the less sympathy I have for the legal troubles Swartz found himself in. He was smart enough to know going into this that there would be legal repercussions. It's possible he even ran his plan by Lessig, with Lessig explaining that it was wrong and he shouldn't do it. Barreling ahead anyways, he only decided not to do it at Harvard.

  • by andydread ( 758754 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:46AM (#42655527)

    The problem here is Stephen Heymann. He is the real zealous procsecutor here

    He has been on a crusade for years for "computer crime" juicy publicty []

    I remember about a week or so ago Anonymous leaked some long diatribe written by Stephen Heymann about lowering the bar on what defines computer crimes etc. I can't find it now. This guy is on a crusade to make a name for himlself.

  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @08:14AM (#42655633)

    The prosecutors killed Swartz.

    I do find the difference in opinion that rises to the top of Slashdot discussions on various topics very interesting.

    In this case, the overriding opinion is that the acts of the prosecutors are responsible for the death of Swartz.

    However, in at least two other cases, that of Amanda Todd and Megan Meier, the overriding opinion in those Slashdot stories was that the person or people accused of bullying were not responsible for the deaths of the victims, as suicide victims usually have underlying issues.

    The duality of Slashdot is very interesting, but so is how very different, very strong opinions and very opposing opinions can still rise to the surface.

  • by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @08:17AM (#42655645)

    he would still have to spend some time in prison with much more serious offenders

    That's the law. Take it up with lawmakers. Don't blame the prosecutor when the public demands stupid laws (and some of these laws are stupid). In addition, Swartz knew the law and deliberately broke it.

    Quick quiz: when he gets out he is viewed by potential employers as a) a brilliant young man, who just made some wrong decisions in the past, but it's all forgiven and forgotten; or b) a felon, found guilty of several computer-related crimes? Guess which viewpoint would be prevalent?

    Doesn't seem to have hurt Robert Morris. He did roughly the same thing minus the copyright infringement, got convicted, and now is a professor at MIT.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @08:32AM (#42655713)

    After watching Les Miserables recently I actually felt that this is the basis of our legal system. Nothing has evolved since then and we they didn't need big brother to destroy lives, now we have "the system" it's pretty much end game for any form of redemption from any past errors in life, disgusting.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @10:29AM (#42656419)

    And what about Germany and France, which have both lower incarceration rates and lower violent crime rates?

    And not just slightly lower incarceration rates: about 85% lower.

  • by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @10:45AM (#42656577)

    Just because the prosecutors were wrong does not mean Swartz was right.

    This. Thank you. It is unfortunate that Swartz took his life. He was treated unfairly and with the utmost unjustice, ironically by the DOJ. And he was a brilliant individual. But he did commit a wrong. It does not justify what was done to him (which ultimately led him to kill himself.)

    What was the wrong he committed? He was allowed access to the documents he downloaded. The only wrong was that instead of sitting there clicking on each one and clicking save as, he had a script access them and save them. But as to the content itself, he was allowed to have access to it and to save it. Instead of JSTOR, you would have thought the RIAA was behind this.

  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @10:55AM (#42656685) Homepage

    So far JSTOR has been covered favorably (due to settling and not wanting the government to press charges) while MIT has come off as evil or apathetic at best. This story implies that MIT was itself pressured by JSTOR to go after Swartz or lose their access. That's pretty big news.

  • Anatole France quote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fritsd ( 924429 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @11:15AM (#42656929) Journal
    a nice quote from the same time period, from Anatole France:

    "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." (Le Lys Rouge)

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun