July 26, 2011

Aaron Swartz / JSTOR case has STATE felony charges, not just Federal

[Under-echoed bit of detail]

I haven't written the obligatory Aaron Swartz indictment post, as, basically, what's the point? I wish him well (disclosure: I know Aaron Swartz socially, and have admired his work). But it's all way beyond my level of tens of blog-readers. Many, many, years ago, back before Twitter and blogs, when USENET was one of the centers of net.influence, I argued about the David LaMacchia case. I eventually turned out to be right about the legal outcome. But personally, it wasn't worth all the flaming over "theft" and similar. I don't need to relive that experience, I'm trying to learn from my mistakes.

Anyway, to say something people haven't heard, news only started to circulate last Friday that in addition to the Federal government charges of "Wire Fraud", "Computer Fraud", "Unlawfully Obtaining Information from a Protected Computer", "Recklessly Damaging a Protected Computer", there are also two State government charges. Per MIT also pressing charges against hacking suspect / Josh Gerstein

But his alleged use of MIT facilities and Web connections to access the JSTOR database also resulted in two state felony charges for breaking into a "depository" and breaking & entering in the daytime, according to local prosecutors.

This is partially corroborated by an online court document "Motion To Unseal Search Warrants, Asset Forfeiture Seizure Warrant, And Supporting Applications", which has a line:

In addition, the government has been asked by the Middlesex District Attorney's Office to make these materials available to it, as they contain facts potentially material to a criminal matter pending in Middlesex County regarding the defendant.

("Middlesex County" is the Massachusetts legal district where MIT is located).

Those are serious charges. He's being prosecuted as if he actually was a thief!

They don't like him. They really don't like him.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on July 26, 2011 02:53 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I suspect he's perceived as an enemy of the state along with Bradley Manning and Julian Assange.

"Acquiring and distributing information in the public interest" - a new crime against the state.

Remind me what kind of state pursues total control over communication to the public?

It's going to get worse, e.g. "Inducing others to acquire and distribute information in the public interest without prior authorisation" and "Operating a publicly accessible web site without a valid license".

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at July 26, 2011 04:24 PM