Cambridge Man Charged With Stealing Documents From MIT

At right, Aaron Swartz (Joi/Flickr)

At right, Aaron Swartz (Joi/Flickr)

BOSTON — A student at Harvard University’s Center for Ethics has been charged with stealing nearly 5 million academic documents.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston on Tuesday charged Aaron Swartz, 24, of Cambridge, with breaking into one of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s computer centers and connecting to their system. Authorities then say Swartz downloaded millions of documents from the JSTOR archive of academic journals.

Swartz, a well-known computer programmer, at the age of 14, helped to create RSS feeds, which allow people to get updates from their favorite web sites. In recent years, he has been working on a political action group called Demand Progress, which reports on the influence of money on politics, non-profits and the media. Swarz was a fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics.

Swartz was released on $100,000 unsecured bond after pleading not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday to charges including wire fraud. He faces up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted.

– Here’s the U.S. Attorney’s release (on Scribd):


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  • AR

    If it were April 1st — I would think this story was a joke.  great.

  • Matt Broman

    One can’t help but wonder what definition of the word “Ethics” is found in this young man’s vocabulary. While I do agree with the sharing of information and education, it should be left to MIT to decide if that data is open and freely accessible, not for some idealist to steal, then distribute.

  • Elbodega

    To the uninformed, JSTOR is an on-line system for digital access to scholarly research
    publications.   Anyone can access JSTOR by purchasing a subscription.  Subscribers
    are typically libraries and institutions, but JSTOR does offer per-user pricing.
    Although the content is not the same, what he did would be the equivalent of hacking into
    someone’s NY Times paid content account.

    Yes he was wrong, but the headline makes it seem as though he stole MIT’s documents.
    He stole access to MIT’s subscription to JSTOR

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