Bits
Business, Innovation, Technology, Society
Internet Activist Charged in M.I.T. Data Theft
BY NICK BILTON JULY 19, 2011 12:54 PM

Joi Ito Aaron Swartz
2:19 p.m. | Updated Added links to documents and comment from United States Attorney’s office in Boston.
2:48 p.m. | Updated Changed headline and post to remove reference to Mr. Swartz being a co-founder of Reddit, as this is disputed. Added comment from Demand Progress.
4:11 p.m. | Updated Corrected reference to timing of indictment.
July 20 | Updated See our fuller article on this topic.
Aaron Swartz, a 24-year-old programmer and online political activist, has been indicted in Boston on charges that he stole more than four million documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and JSTOR, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. (Read the full indictment below.)
Mr. Swartz was indicted last Thursday by the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, and the indictment was unsealed Tuesday. The charges could result in up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
In a press release, Ms. Ortiz’s office said that Mr. Swartz broke into a restricted area of M.I.T. and entered a computer wiring closet. Mr. Swartz apparently then accessed the M.I.T. computer network and took millions of documents from JSTOR.
Mr. Swartz, a well-known figure in Internet academic circles, created a site called Infogami that later merged with the social news site Reddit. He is also a founder and director of the nonprofit group Demand Progress, which calls itself a political action group hoping to change public policy that relates to the Internet.
In 2009 Mr. Swartz downloaded 19 million pages of federal court documents from a government database system, acting on the belief that they should be made available free.
Demand Progress said on its site that it appeared Mr. Swartz was “being charged with allegedly downloading too many scholarly journal articles from the Web.” It quoted the group’s executive director, David Segal, as saying, “It’s like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library.”
The charges filed against Mr. Swartz include wire fraud, computer fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer and criminal forfeiture.
“Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars,” said Ms. Ortiz in the press release.
The United States Attorney’s office in Boston said Mr. Swartz “surrendered today, was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Boston this morning and pled not guilty to all counts. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bond. His next court date is September 9, 2011 for a status conference.”
Mr. Swartz could not immediately be reached for comment.
Full Indictment of Aaron Swartz

John Schwartz contributed reporting.
SHARE
More in Technology
Go to the Technology Section »
Top News
Go to the Home Page »
CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK
Suddenly It’s Bare Season
Bras in the parks, skivvies on Fifth Avenue: Is this the logical endpoint of increasingly blurred...
MINI-VOWS
‘The Hot Doctor’ Finds a Life Partner Close...
It took Dr. Ryan Weight almost a year to ask Jerri Hobdy out on a date. However, it only took one...
A Grizzly Bear Terrorized a Man for Days...
Down to his last rounds of ammunition, with bruises and a leg injury, the man was rescued by a helicopter...
PREVIOUS POST
Scribd Creates a Paid News Site
NEXT POST
Google+ iPhone App Surfaces in iTunes
Visit the Technology section for complete coverage of the industry. »
@NYTIMESBITS ON TWITTER
FOLLOW
© 2017 The New York Times Company
Contact Us
Work With Us
Advertise
Your Ad Choices
Privacy
Terms of Service
Terms of Sale
Site MapHelpSite FeedbackSubscriptions
TECHNOLOGYHow Tech Won the Pandemic and Now May Never LoseAmazon Ends Use of Arbitration for Customer DisputesActivision Blizzard Is Sued by California Over Workplace CultureON TECHWe Need a New Term for Video GamesThe F.T.C. asks for an extension to refile its Facebook antitrust suit.Delays, More Masks and Mandatory Shots: Virus Surge Disrupts Office-Return PlansAmazon will investigate gender bias claims in its cloud division.HBO and HBO Max Subscribers Seen Reaching 73 Million in 2021ON TECHWhat the Fight Over Facebook MissesA.I. Predicts the Shapes of Molecules to ComeLyft will team up with Ford and a self-driving car start-up to offer rides in Miami.The Amazonification of Space Begins in EarnestClearview AI raises $30 million from investors despite legal troubles.ON TECHThe Nightmare of Our Snooping PhonesA 22-year-old was arrested in hacks of Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat.Robinhood’s Guinea Pig for Upending Public Offerings: ItselfTECH FIXWant to Buy a PlayStation 5? Befriend a Bot.China Breached Dozens of Pipeline Companies in Past Decade, U.S. SaysHow Disney is Chipping Away at Netflix's DominanceON TECHCan Apple’s AirTags Find Lost Pets?TECHNOLOGY