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Nancy Gertner: Ortiz Should Have Never Pursued The Swartz Case

Computer prodigy and cyber activist Aaron Swartz was buried yesterday near Chicago. The 26-year-old former Harvard fellow committed suicide on Friday.

Swartz was facing criminal charges and a federal trial for downloading some four million documents from a fee-charging database of academic journals at MIT. He was charged with multiple felonies and was facing up to 35 years in prison and more than a million dollars in fines.

After Swartz’s death, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz dropped the charges against Swartz.

But retired federal Judge Nancy Gertner says the matter should have never been prosecuted in the first place.



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  • HollyHemlock

    I pay $1,600 per graduate class to do research using jstors.
    Why should Aaron steal academic documents? Where is the protection of property
    - intellectual or physical? While he was bright and intelligent, who is he to
    steal academic work while others access it properly by paying for it?

    • http://twitter.com/twosidesormore twosidesormore

      I understand he had lawful access to the same documents from his Harvard account. He hooked up the network at MIT physically to download them faster, from what I gathered. Jstor has old articles for the most part, even 100 years old or more. Intellectual property is a minor issue here. It’s a victimless crime. Often these articles describe publicly funded research anyway. The damage to individual authors was minimal to none. 
      The prosecution has discretion in this country. When they use it to bully a student into submission with a litany of charges, as if one was Al Capone or Bernie Madoff,  is a disgrace, plain and simple. They do that often, more than we realize. Strong with the weak and weak with those who are strong. A lesson for those so willing to trust the judgement of the government in way too many things (I’m thinking of the firearms debate now).

  • http://twitter.com/datsneefa Jim Terwiliger

    Sins of the father: the only real way to make people accountable

    More failed justice brought to you by Eric Holder, Carmen Ortiz, and Stephen Heymann.

    May they and their children always be remembered as the villains they are!

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