.To those who knew Swartz’ ethic, that indictment already seemed like overkill,essentially labeling an effort to share information as wire and computer fraud.But then last year, Ortiz multiplied each of the main charges, turning the sameunderlying actions into a13-count indictment
that may have contributed to hissuicide. Buthis family
have also blamed the government’sconduct in prosecuting Swartz. A statement issued by the family the day after Swartz’s suicide charges that “the U.S. Attorney’s office pursued anexceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years inprison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims.” And therein lies the almost incomprehensible legal background to this tragedy.Both before and after his arrest, Swartz had dedicated much of his life tousing the internet to making information freely accessible. His goal here -- thegovernment claims he intended to publish the journals online, but made noclaim he wanted to profit off of them -- would have put academic research,much of it funded by federal grants, in the hands of the people who paid for it.
The Free Exchange of Ideas
Academic inquiry is founded on the free exchange of ideas. And most of the journals’ authors do not get paid for the articles they wrote. Swartz’s “crime”here would have served to foster intellectual exchange, the entire point of publishing scholarly journals. In fact, since Swartz’s indictment, JSTORhasopened up access
to its journals for individuals who register. To someextent, then, Swartz’ goal has been implemented by his alleged victim.Moreover, as Alex Stamos, an expert witness who would have testified inSwartz’s defense,points out
, both the alleged victims of this crime had builttheir systems to foster openness. MIT deliberately allows visitors to accesstheir system. At the time of the alleged crimes, JSTOR permitted users at MITan unlimited number of downloads. Both networks lacked very basicsafeguards to prevent abuse. And both alleged victims have expressed regret at what has happened.Before the federal government charged Swartz, JSTOR settled its complaintagainst him, though MIT did not. In response to his death,