Feds arrest Reddit co-founder for theft of journal articles

Pakalert July 20, 2011 0


2:19 p.m. | Updated Added links to documents and comment from United States Attorney’s office in Boston.

2:48 p.m. | Updated Changed headline and post to remove reference to Mr. Swartz being a co-founder of Reddit, as this is disputed. Added comment from Demand Progress.

4:11 p.m. | Updated Corrected reference to timing of indictment.

Aaron Swartz, a 24-year-old programmer and online political activist, has been indicted in Boston on charges that he stole more than four million documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and JSTOR, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. (Read the full indictment below.)

Mr. Swartz was indicted last Thursday by the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, and the indictment was unsealed Tuesday. The charges could result in up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

In a press release, Ms. Ortiz’s office said that Mr. Swartz broke into a restricted area of M.I.T. and entered a computer wiring closet. Mr. Swartz apparently then accessed the M.I.T. computer network and took millions of documents from JSTOR.

Mr. Swartz, a well-known figure in Internet academic circles, created a site called Infogami that later merged with the social news site Reddit. He is also a founder and director of the nonprofit group Demand Progress, which calls itself a political action group hoping to change public policy that relates to the Internet.

In 2009 Mr. Swartz downloaded 19 million pages of federal court documents from a government database system, acting on the belief that they should be made available free.

Demand Progress said on its site that it appeared Mr. Swartz was “being charged with allegedly downloading too many scholarly journal articles from the Web.” It quoted the group’s executive director, David Segal, as saying, “It’s like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library.”

The charges filed against Mr. Swartz include wire fraud, computer fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer and criminal forfeiture.

“Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars,” said Ms. Ortiz in the press release.

The United States Attorney’s office in Boston said Mr. Swartz “surrendered today, was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Boston this morning and pled not guilty to all counts. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bond. His next court date is September 9, 2011 for a status conference.”

Mr. Swartz could not immediately be reached for comment.

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