Aaron Swartz, a young hacker, developer and internet entrepreneuer, committed suicide today at the age of 26. He was facing a possible sentencing of 30 years in prison for downloading public domain documents from MIT’s JSTOR network.
How he carried out his ‘crime’? On the MIT network, he used Python to find public domain document URLs and Curl to download them. (And he didn’t redistribute them.)
If the security is bad (unlocked closets, no password protection), it should not be a crime to download… period.
I understand laws concerning uploading must be more strict, to protect the interests of copyright holders from mass free distribution of protected materials.
But really? One guy downloading public domain docs from an open network? A 26 year old given 30 years in prison? That’s more time than the kid has lived, and it’s for downloading a public domain doc? There are murderers and accessories to murder who get less time than that!
We need to elect technologically literate developers and techies to Congress. The current laws on downloading are an abuse of human rights; where there is censorship, there is abuse. And, ultimately, freedom of information will suffer until these laws are changed.