The federal government today charged 24-year-old Aaron Swartz, a well-known Internet activist, with multiple counts, including wire fraud, computer fraud, and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, for allegedly hacking the Massachussetts Institute of Technology’s network and downloading as many as four million documents from the nonprofit journal aggregator JSTOR. If convicted, Swartz faces up to 35 years in prison and a fine up to $1 million.
A former fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Ethics, Swartz is a popular figure in Internet circles, and is an outspoken advocate for libraries and free access to information. As a teenager, his company was acquired by social news site Reddit, and he worked there until roughly 2007. He is also the founder of Demand Progress, a non-profit political action group. David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress said Swartz’s prosecution was unwarranted, as MIT and JSTOR, had already resolved “any claims against Aaron, explained they’ve suffered no loss or damage, and asked the government not to prosecute.” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, however, said in a statement that “stealing is stealing.”
According to the indictment, Swartz allegedly broke into a computer wiring closet at MIT to gain access to the JSTOR atchive.