Sad story with some interesting philosophical and political undercurrents

A well-known hacker and programmer, Aaron Swartz (26), committed suicide Friday, and set off a firestorm of discussion. He was famous partly for being involved with the development of RSS and Reddit, but achieved notoriety when he hacked into MIT’s JSTOR account and downloaded tons of journal articles, and ‘set them free’. After he was caught (and he didn’t try to hide it very well), JSTOR declined to prosecute, and it’s not totally clear what MIT did (in fact, over the weekend the President of MIT launched an investigation to find out). Meanwhile, the federal prosecutor threw the book at him, threatening him with 35 years (!) in jail and millions of dollars in fines.

You can read lots about it in the article in Inside Higher Ed, and also read commentaries by folks whose work I read frequently, including Larry Lessig, Cory Doctorow and James Fallows. There’s more on

Added Jan. 15: more coverage of the fallout.


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