As the Internet exploded with anger over news that online activist Aaron Swartz had committed suicide on Friday, the subscription-only archive he was accused of hacking said late today that it "regretted" having been drawn to "this sad event."
Swartz, a celebrated computer activist and programming prodigy, was fighting two-year-old charges that he stole 4 million documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and JSTOR, or Journal Storage, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. If convicted, Swartz faced a maximum of $4 million in fines and more than 50 years in prison after the government increased the number of felony counts against Swartz to 13 from 4.
Federal authorities alleged that Swartz broke into computer networks at M.I.T. to illegally gain access to JSTOR's archive. But critics of the government said the Feds were unfairly trying to make an example out of Swartz. In a post today Prosecutor as bully legal scholar Larry Lessig wrote that "the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way."
Here is the text of the JSTOR release:
We are deeply saddened to hear the news about Aaron Swartz. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Aaron's family, friends, and everyone who loved, knew, and admired him. He was a truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the internet and the web from which we all benefit.
We have had inquiries about JSTOR's view of this sad event given the charges against Aaron and the trial scheduled for April. The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR's mission is to foster widespread access to the world's body of scholarly knowledge. At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to use by the owners and creators of that content. To that end.
Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service and a member of the internet community.l We will continue to work to distribute the content under our care as widely as possible while balancing the interests of researchers, students, libraries, and publishers as we pursue our commitment to the long-term preservation of this important scholarly literature. We join those who are mourning this tragic loss.