“Prosecutors destroy a life.” That could be a headline in every newspaper every day in a land where the answer to every problem (and many nonproblems) is police and prisons. When 26-year-old Internet prodigy and freedom of information activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide on January 11, the tragedy was the direct result of US attorneys deciding to throw criminal charges at him for violating a website’s “terms of services” while accessing publicly subsidized academic research. Swartz entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s open campus, accessed its open network and downloaded a few million academic articles owned by the digital library JSTOR, whose database contains content belonging to hundreds of publishers.
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