Aaron Swartz first came to prominence for inventing part of the RSS code, and later for co-founding Reddit before selling it to Conde Nast. He’s also an Internet activist, so committed to the idea of open access that he’s been downloading millions of academic articles from the nonprofit academic service JSTOR, at one point crashing its servers. The plan was to put them online for free and make a larger point about free access to data.
It didn’t quite work out that way. Caught hacking into JSTOR via a plug in an MIT network closet–after the school had barred him from its network–Swartz eventually returned the downloaded materials to JSTOR and promised not to disseminate them. That ended matters for JSTOR, but not for the Feds, who indicted Swartz in criminal court. He’s out on bail, but faces up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine for what he’s done.
One of his colleagues at the activist group Demand Progress, says it’s like “trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library.”