by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) July 19, 2011
A US Internet activist was charged Tuesday with plundering digital academic archives at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Aaron Swartz, 24, could be sentenced to 35 years in prison and a million-dollar fine if convicted of hacking-related criminal charges outlined in an indictment unsealed by the US Department of Justice.
Swartz is co-founder of the activism group Demand Progress, and earlier had founded a site called Infogami that was acquired by the social news and content sharing website Reddit.
"Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars," US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a release.
"It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away," he continued.
Swartz allegedly broke into a closet in the basement of an MIT building to plug into the university's network through a computer switch there and downloaded millions of digital articles from non-profit Journal Storage archives.
During a four-month period ending in early January, Swartz downloaded "a major portion" of the archives, evidently to distribute them at file-sharing websites, according to the indictment.
Swartz is a resident of the city where MIT is located but was not affiliated with the university, according to prosecutors.
Swartz's Demand Progress boasts a half-million members and advocating for "civil liberties, civil rights, and progressive causes."
"This makes no sense," Demand Progress executive director David Segal said in a blog post in response to Swartz's indictment.
"It's like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library."
Segal maintained that Swartz's career has focused on promoting ethics, democracy, and open government and said the group hoped to see him cleared of "these bizarre charges."
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